Friday, December 12, 2008



Babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth, who has previously found guilty of murdering her neighbour's two-year-old son by repeatedly banging the boy's head against a wooden banister, has won an appeal against her conviction. She has been granted bail after Court of Appeal Judges declared her conviction for the murder of a toddler "unsafe" in the light of new medical evidence.

Acting for Suzanne, Henry Blaxland QC of Garden Court's Crime team argued that new evidence showed she was the victim of a miscarriage of justice over the death of the two-year old boy. The Court of Appeal was told that they child had abnormalities which predisposed him to epilepsy.

Henry Blaxland QC said that the doctors who gave evidence at trial "got it wrong" and "collectively failed to diagnose" that the Kyle had a "highly unusual brain", which indicated three abnormalities, two of which predisposed him to epilepsy."

Henry Blaxland QC also stated that the prosecution's case at trial 'was based on expert medical opinion evidence to the effect that the child died from fatal brain swelling or oedema which was caused by a blow or blows of significant force.'

A jury was told in 2005 that the mum-of-two smashed the toddler’s head against a bannister with the force of “a car crash at 60mph," Yet Kyles's skull was unbroken and there was no evidence of hair, blood or tissue on the wood.

One of the experts providing fresh evidence on behalf of the defence is forensic pathologist Dr. Christopher Millroy who participated in the Ontario Chief Coroner's Review of suspicious death of infant's cases involving Dr. Charles Smith and later testified at the recently concluded Goudge Inquiry;


Professor Derrick Pounder's evidence for the defence is referred to in the Evening Gazette story which appeared on December 12, 2008, under the heading, "Holdsworth Trial: Kyle's death unique say experts."

"The death of a Teesside toddler is a unique case which may be beyond the current knowledge of medical science, a murder trial jury heard," the story by reporter Garth Lightfoot begins;

"Teesside Crown Court has heard from experts called by the defence of babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth," the story continues;

"She denies murdering two-year-old Kyle Fisher by hitting his head against banisters at her home on Millpool Close, Hartlepool in July 2004.

Consultant neuro-pathologist Dr Wainey Squier, a clinical lecturer at the University of Oxford, said she had never seen a child with the same combination of problems.

She could find no medical journals with cases comparable to Kyle’s.

"I think this case is incredibly complicated. There are so many factors it’s very difficult to tease out which individual pathway to follow.

"It’s a very abnormal brain and a number of factors operating in the last period of Kyle’s life.

"I’ve never seen a brain where all of these factors have come together. So it is quite unique."

She said Kyle had at least four reasons to be susceptible to epilepsy and two to be more vulnerable to brain swelling.

She said a prolonged epileptic seizure could have caused fatal brain swelling in Kyle, and she saw nothing in the case to prove otherwise.

The prosecution have said that the only conceivable explanation for Kyle’s brain swelling is that he suffered a trauma the night he collapsed in Holdsworth’s sole care.

Dr Squier said: "One certainly can’t exclude that as a possibility but I think it would fly in the face of a huge amount of clinical evidence to say that that is the only possibility.

"In my opinion an epileptic seizure would be far more likely."

She said it was likely Kyle suffered bleeding over the brain the night before he collapsed, which, along with his other brain difficulties, caused a fit the next day, leading to fatal brain swelling.

Professor Derrick Pounder, forensic pathologist and professor of forensic medicine at the University of Dundee, said Kyle’s head bruises were the result of blunt force trauma requiring moderate force.

But he said he was "highly sceptical" that the banisters at Holdsworth’s home were the cause of the marks.

"That’s not the only explanation and I’m highly sceptical that it’s the correct explanation," he told the court.

He added there was no evidence proving Kyle’s injuries were caused in the time window alleged by the Crown.

He could not give an age for the bruises, some of which, the court heard, would have needed up to 11 impacts, or say whether they were inflicted on one or more occasions.

He said original pathologist Dr James Sunter’s theory of Kyle having his head rammed into banisters was an initially logical thought.

"But in exploring that thought, there should have been a more critical appraisal of whether it was truly possible."

He said no definite cause could be given for Kyle’s bruises.

He attributed some bruises to Kyle’s body to "rough handling" taking place about a week before death, and could not rule out resuscitation as a possible cause for jawline marks.

Professor Renzo Guerrini, a professor of paediatric neurology and international specialist in epilepsy in children, said he had never treated or seen in medical literature a patient with the same combination of findings.

He said an epileptic fit was the most likely possibility given Holdsworth’s description of Kyle’s collapse in a 999 call, and was consistent with a prolonged seizure.

He said Kyle went in a comatose state and never recovered, "but the dynamics which have produced that are impossible to disentangle in a very clear manner".

He suggested Kyle had a head injury, which might have been trivial but produced bleeding over the brain, which later triggered a seizure leading to brain swelling.

The professor indicated that Kyle’s precise situation was not currently in the knowledge of medical science.

Holdsworth, 38, now of Boggart Hill Drive, Seacroft, Leeds, denies murder.