Three-year-old boy was ‘assaulted’ by stepmother prior to death, trial told

A fatal “assault” on a three-year-old boy by his stepmother left him with a fractured skull and a bleed on the brain, a court heard.

Leila Borrington, 23, stands accused of murdering three-year-old Harvey Borrington at her home in Jacksdale, near Nottingham, in August 2021, after previously claiming that he died after falling backwards off a sofa.

But giving evidence at the resumed trial on Friday, Dr Sarah Dickson, a consultant paediatrician, told Nottingham Crown Court that the fatal injuries – including a skull fracture and a bleed on the brain – were a result of inflicted blunt force trauma.

Jonas Hankin KC, prosecuting, said: “You express your opinion about the causation of these head and eye injuries. How would you describe these injuries?”

“My opinion is that the head and eye injuries are inflicted injuries,” Dr Dickson replied.

Mr Hankin then asked: How would you describe the manner in which they were inflicted?”

“Harvey was assaulted,” Dr Dickson said.

Mr Hankin put forward the hypothesis that the bleed on the brain had been sustained before the day of Harvey’s death, which Dr Dickson disagreed with, agreeing with Mr Hankin’s suggestion that it was “possible but unlikely”.

After clips were shown to the jury of Harvey, who was autistic, playing and loading a dishwasher prior to paramedics being called on August 7, 2021, Dr Dickson said that such actions were “categorically incompatible” with the idea he had already suffered blunt force trauma.

When asked whether Harvey would have been able to carry out normal activities if he was suffering from a bleed on the brain, such as eating or playing, Dr Dickson said: “In my opinion, absolutely not.”

A video taken by Borrington, 31, previously shown to the jury, taken at 1:34pm on August 7, showed Harvey playing normally, with a second video – played to the jury again on Friday – taken at 1:56pm, showing him lying unconscious on the floor. The second video was sent to Harvey’s father.

Harvey’s family left the courtroom as the second clip was shown, with Dr Dickson stating it was her opinion that the fatal injuries were inflicted within the 22-minute gap between videos.

Mr Hankin said: “In your opinion, with your experience, would you expect a non-medically qualified adult to recognise that this child, in that situation, needed medical help?”

“Undoubtedly,” Dr Dickson responded.

Mr Hankin later asked: “What is your conclusion in relation to the injuries that caused Harvey’s death?”

Dr Dickson responded: “Harvey died from traumatic head injuries. No naturally occurring medical condition explains the presence or severity of the injuries that led to Harvey’s death.

“The account provided by the caregiver does not explain the extent of the injuries.

“In my opinion, the cause of Harvey’s head injuries were inflicted injuries by means of direct impact trauma, with or without additional abusive shaking injury.”

Paramedics were called to Borrington’s home at 2:02pm on August 7 2021, with Harvey found to be “deeply unconscious”. He died on August 9, at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham.

Dr Dickson also told the court that other non-fatal injuries sustained by Harvey, including a spiral arm fracture to the left arm and grazes to his face, suggested “inappropriate rough handling or other maltreatment” in the months and weeks leading up to his death.

She said that these could have been inflicted through methods such as open-hand striking or other means which involved excessive force, but that they also appeared to be inflicted and that explanations given by Borrington to medical professionals – including that the arm fracture was sustained by her pulling Harvey up after he tripped while walking up the stairs – were not plausible.

Borrington, of Main Road, Jacksdale, denies a count of murder, another of manslaughter, a third of wounding, and four separate counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The trial continues.