A Wicklow man has been found guilty of killing his ex-fiancée’s three-and-a-half-month-old baby seven years ago.
Philip Doyle (aged 34) of Tinakilly, Aughrim, had pleaded not guilty at the Central Criminal Court to murdering Ross Murphy at 3 Creagh Demesne, Gorey, Co. Wexford on April 5, 2005.
But following a court ruling last week, Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy directed the jury to acquit him of murder and to consider a verdict of manslaughter.
The jury of six men and five women returned a unanimous verdict of guilty of manslaughter after just over three hours of deliberation following the four-week trial.
Mr Justice McCarthy thanked the jury for their service in what he described as “an upsetting trial in many ways” before excusing them from serving further for a period of 10 years.
No application was made for bail and Doyle was remanded in custody for sentencing on July 2 next.
Sentencing was adjourned to allow for the baby’s mother Leona Murphy, who is expecting her third child on June 10, to be present at the hearing and for preparation of a victim impact statement.
Doyle, a painter and decorator, was minding the baby at the home he shared with Ms Murphy while she went out to get a DVD on April 3, 2005.
The jury heard the baby was initially taken to Wexford General Hospital on March 31, 2005 because he was ‘lifeless’ and getting sick on the bed.
The baby was kept in for observation because of a rash on his neck and released on Sunday April 3 but returned to the hospital that evening.
He was rushed to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin in the early hours of the next morning but died the next day of brain trauma.
Doyle started dating Ms Murphy when she was seven months pregnant - the two began living together in January 2005 and got engaged.
The infant was born in December 2004 and Doyle asked Ms Murphy for his name to be put on the baby’s birth certificate as the father.
When she refused he also contacted the births registry in Waterford who also told him it could not be done, the court heard.
The defence said the death was an accident and that Doyle fell on the wooden floor of the living room while holding the baby in his arms.
The prosecution said Doyle’s defence was based on a lie, that the injuries to the child were inflicted by him and caused the infant’s death.
The court heard the accused changed from an account he gave in a witness statement saying the baby did not fall while he was minding him on the evening of April 3.
Three weeks later he then changed his story in an interview, telling gardaí he fell while holding the infant.
State Pathologist Professor Marie Cassidy told the court she concluded the baby died from brain trauma from which he would not have recovered.
Prof Cassidy said such trauma would not be expected to occur in a not yet mobile child without some explanation.
She said there was deep bruising consistent with the trunk being firmly gripped and that haemorrhages inside the eyes “highly suggested a shaking incident.”
The injury to the forehead had a patterned or textured appearance and the child’s head could have been struck against a similarly patterned surface such as a carpet or sofa, Prof Cassidy told the court.
The charge of murder was reduced to manslaughter following an application by the defence.
The judge ruled the prosecution had not made a case that the jury could find, without reasonable doubt, that Doyle murdered, which is an intention to kill or cause serious harm, as they could not prove how the injuries to the baby were caused.
The judge said for manslaughter the accused must have inflicted injury on the deceased which caused his death and that the death was unlawful.
He said the mental element that the prosecution must prove is an intention to cause harm.
Mr Justice McCarthy also told the jury in his charge it was not necessary for the prosecution to prove a motive.
Speaking outside the court the baby’s aunt, Adele Murphy, said the family was glad justice was served.
“There are no winners here today, we still walk away without our little baby boy but it is good to finally get justice for him.
“We love and will always miss Ross and it is heartbreaking he’s not with us, even more heartbreaking now knowing the injuries he received.
“We are a strong family unit and together we will find our way back to normality as it is now.
“We find peace knowing that he is resting safe and peacefully in the arms of God and his angels.
“We would also like to thank everybody for the support over the last seven years.”