Medical evidence indicated that baby Rehma Sabir was malnourished and some of her injuries happened when she was with her parents in the Middle East, yet one doctor’s report saw the case against Aisling Brady McCarthy drag on, writes John Breslin
REHMA Sabir was taken to Boston Children’s Hospital on January 14, 2013. She was near death. It was the baby’s first birthday.
Among those at her bedside were her parents, Nada Siddiqui and Sameer Sabir, and their nanny, Aisling Brady McCarthy.
Two days after being admitted, the baby died.
An expert on child deaths and injuries at the hospital was, and is, Dr Alice Newton. She was called in to give her opinion both before and after baby Rehma died.
Aisling Brady McCarthy
Dr Newton had no doubts as to what happened. Rehma was the victim of a violent assault, she had a severe head injury.
The Massachusetts State Police report, based on Dr Newton’s diagnosis, concluded: “Abusive head trauma includes injuries caused by violent shaking either by directly striking the head or causing the head to strike another object or surface.” There was “no other medical explanation for Rehma’s injuries or death”, Dr Newton reported.
That same report included details of blood stains discovered by police officers, on a baby wipe, a blanket, and a pillow.
There were other injuries, notably to the child’s back. A neighbour reported hearing “extreme” crying.
There was damage to a wall, likely caused by the baby-changing table being knocked against it.
Someone, it was concluded in meetings directly after the baby was brought to hospital, was responsible for the girl’s fatal injuries.
Following Rehma’s death, two days after being admitted, the nanny was charged with assault.
The nanny, the recently married Aisling Brady McCarthy, was a foreigner and in the country illegally, it quickly emerged.
And McCarthy Brady had some history, complaints by neighbours, police reports of an assault on an ex-boyfriend and a restraining order issued by a court.
The narrative was clear — a crazy illegal Irish nanny had beaten a child to death.
Attorneys David Meier (left) and Melinda Thompson took on Aisling Brady McCarthy’s defence case.
Brady McCarthy, now aged 37, was taken into custody, with bail set at $500,000, (€442,000) Two months later, she was charged with first degree murder, that she, with intent, murdered the child in her care.
What could have happened is that an overworked public defender would have been assigned to Brady McCarthy’s case.
In fairly short order, the Cavan woman likely would have been urged to take a plea, admit guilt to a lesser offence, admit she had a part in the baby’s death, take maybe 10 to 15 years.
It goes some way to explain why prosecutors went to a grand jury to ask that she be charged with premeditated murder, to force a plea.
What happened was that McCarthy Brady had a friend who knew somebody in the law offices of Todd and Weld, a firm dealing mostly with corporate clients but with a sideline in criminal defence.
Melinda Thompson got the file and immediately, after one quick run-through, saw holes big enough to drive a bus through.
Those injuries to Rehma’s back — they happened weeks before the day she was fatally injured. Brady McCarthy was nowhere near the child when they occurred.
In fact, at the time Rehma was travelling through the Middle East with her parents who are from Pakistan.
The damage to the wall? Easily caused by normal wear and tear. The blood stains found could not be linked to the day Rehma was fatally injured.
Rehma’s head, or any other part of her body, was not knocked against anything.
That neighbour has admitted never having to care for a child for any length of time and the crying that she heard occurred hours before the alarm was raised and emergency services called.
Then came the doctor reports, including one from late the previous year that concluded Rehma was a malnourished child.
But, prosecutors continued to argue, she was violently shaken, causing blunt force trauma to her brain.
Aisling Brady McCarthy in court
Thompson and her team of lawyers levelled a double barrel against the prosecution — that there is no such thing as shaken baby syndrome and, even if there was, Dr Newton’s diagnosis was rushed and wrong.
They also cited other cases where similar prosecutions, where Dr Newton was the key witness, were dropped.
Geoffrey Wilson, in 2010, was accused of shaking to death his six-month-old baby.
The prosecution case rested largely on Dr Newton’s conclusions, which she came to just hours after the baby was brought to hospital.
The charges were dropped after it was found the son had a rare genetic defect that may have played a role in his death.
The medical examiners changed the manner of death from homicide to “cannot be determined”.
Brady McCarthy’s lawyers tried to have Dr Newton’s testimony excluded from the expected trial, arguing she failed to review Rehma’s medical history, including the fact she was malnourished.
Dr Newton, at a hearing before Judge Maureen Hogan in Middlesex County Superior Court, said she and others conducted a careful review and that the child died from “a major traumatic injury”.
That hearing was last September and even then it was becoming pretty clear there were major problems with the prosecution case.
Brady McCarthy’s defence had their own medical experts reviewing the evidence.
These were delivered to the prosecution and to Judge Hogan in April. The judge ruled they be reviewed by the state’s medical examiner.
The information contained in the defence reports was more than enough for Judge Hogan to radically reduce Brady McCarthy’s bail, leading to her release to house arrest. That review took four months.
Aisling Brady McCarthy attorneys speaking after homicide case dropped. Say Aisling can't stop crying out of joy. pic.twitter.com/toPvJOPEu9— Monica Madeja NBC10 Boston (@MonicaNBCBoston) August 31, 2015
It was a rare occurrence, prompting those watching the case closely to conclude the prosecution of Brady McCarthy was on the brink of collapse.
That review concluded Rehma’s death might have been an accident, caused maybe by a minor trauma or some natural disease, a far, far cry from those early claims that the Irish nanny from Lavey intentionally and with forethought gave a baby a fatal head injury.
Rehma Sabir hospitalised after falling unconscious at home and her parents, Sameer Sabir and Nada Siddiqui, are told she suffered a series of strokes.
A social worker from the Boston Children’s Hospital child protection team, led by Dr Alice Newton, begins an emergency response and claims Rehma might have suffered abuse. Boston Children’s Hospital files a child abuse report with the state child protection agency and Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
The Department of Children and Families contacts the Middlesex district attorney’s office to make a referral for an investigation into physical abuse allegations. Dr Newton diagnoses the baby as a victim of violent head trauma. Ms Brady McCarthy is questioned. Denies involvement in baby’s injuries.
Rehma is declared brain dead and is removed from life support two days later.
The medical examiner’s office carries out an autopsy on Rehma and rules she died as a result of blunt force trauma.
Ms Brady McCarthy is arrested and detained on €450,000 bail.
She fails to have her bail lowered and is deemed a flight risk.
New review into Rehma’s death by state medical examiner’s office.
Ms Brady McCarthy has bail lowered and is allowed to live at home.
Medical examiner says Rehma’s cause of death was “undetermined”. Charges against the Irish nanny are dropped.
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