Saturday, December 6, 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;


A clash over the medical evidence involved in this case was highlighted in a December 5, 2008 story by reporter Gareth Lightfoot, which appeared in the Evening Gazette, under the heading, "Epileptic fit killed Kyle Fisher, says QC."

"Kyle Fisher died from an epileptic fit affected by his “unique” brain abnormalities and an earlier head injury, a murder trial jury has been told," the story began.

"The two-year-old boy died from brain swelling two days after he collapsed at the home of his babysitter, Suzanne Holdsworth, on July 21, 2004," the story continued.

"The prosecution say she must have inflicted the fatal injuries that night by banging his head against banisters at her home on Millpool Close, Hartlepool.

Andrew Thomas QC, who defends Holdsworth, presented a different theory to Teesside Crown Court yesterday.

He said: “The alternative explanation is he suffered an epileptic seizure, concerned with development disorders and a head injury sustained prior to being taken to Miss Holdsworth’s house.”

The court has heard how Kyle had problems affecting his brain including scar tissue, an unusually large brain and head, and a hole in his skull.

Mr Thomas said this was a “unique combination of prior disorders”, and Kyle already had head bruises during the day before he was taken ill.

Consultant paediatric neurologist Dr Christopher Rittey said an epileptic seizure might have played a part in events.

But it could not be said for sure whether Kyle suffered one, and he had no prior history of fits caused by epilepsy.

He said: “If there was an epileptic seizure, and I accept that there may well have been, my opinion is that it was caused by brain trauma, in other words traumatic brain injury.”

He agreed a prolonged fit could lead to brain swelling.

Mr Thomas put to the doctor: “We say that’s what’s happened in this case, in this unique case. You can’t disprove that, can you?”

Dr Rittey accepted the “interesting concept”, but said it had “no basis in observed clinical fact” and was “so exceptional that I believe it not to be a reasonable alternative”.

Jurors have also heard about “second impact syndrome”, where a recent previous trauma can lead to brain swelling on a second blow.

Dr Rittey agreed it would be difficult to say what force was used in the second impact if Kyle had already suffered a significant head injury.

Kyle’s mum Clare Fisher, 24, has been accused of causing injuries to Kyle in the days leading up to his collapse.

Dr Rittey could not say whether bleeding around his brain was caused on the night of collapse or the night before.

If it was the night before, he added, brain swelling could have started but Kyle would not have been behaving normally as was observed.

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