Saturday, December 20, 2008



Babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth, who was previously found guilty of murdering her neighbour's two-year-old son by repeatedly banging the boy's head against a wooden banister, won an appeal against her conviction. She was 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 who provided fresh evidence on behalf of the defence at Holdsworth's second trial, was 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;


Suzanne Holdsworth described the torment she experienced in prison in an interview with the BBC which appeared on December 18, 2008 under the heading, "Freed babysitter's jail torment."

"Suzanne Holdsworth was called a "nonce" in prison," the story began;

"From the moment she was convicted of child murder babysitter Suzanne Holdsworth was mentally abused and taunted in jail," it continued;

"But the 38-year-old does not blame her fellow inmates for their treatment of her during the three years she was locked up for the killing of two-year-old Kyle Fisher.

Speaking to the BBC by telephone from prison, she said: "When I went in I was abused and called a 'nonce'.

"I would go back to my cell and cry and cry and cry.

"But I can't fault people, I would have been exactly the same. They thought I was a murderer.

"But I was innocent and had done nothing wrong."

Ms Holdsworth's nightmare began in 2004 when she was looking after Kyle, the son of her teenage neighbour Clare Fisher.

Ms Holdsworth was caring for him at her home in Hartlepool when he suffered a fit.

During her 999 call she said the youngster's eyes were rolling and he had gone floppy.

But the police insisted the former supermarket worker had battered Kyle's head against the banister in her home in Millpool Close in a bout of rage.

In March 2005, a jury agreed with the prosecution case and Ms Holdsworth was given a life sentence and told she would spend at least 10 years behind bars.

But according to experts for the defence the case against her was deeply flawed.

During the retrial Professor Bill Dobyns, of the Department of Human Genetics at Chicago University, condemned the investigation.

Prof Dobyns, who has been studying the brains of young children for 25 years, said the medical evidence did not support a murder charge and trying someone for killing the toddler was "embarrassing".

He said Kyle was vulnerable with complex developmental problems.

'Patently ridiculous'

He had water on his brain, a brain that was a lot larger that normal and had many abnormal cells. He was also predisposed to epilepsy.

Prof Dobyns said that the "mild to moderate" bruises on Kyle's face were just not consistent with him suffering a severe head injury.

There were no obvious signs of injury and little doubt he had a fit

Prof Dobyns

He said: "It is patently ridiculous - the prosecution clearly did not look at this boy in any way, shape or form.

"Then when the developmental disorders were discovered they were ignored by the prosecution.

"There were so many other features here that were not consistent with a severe blow to the head.

"It was almost embarrassing - it seemed a difficult case, but in fact it wasn't - there were clues up front that could have been looked at and led to further studies.

"There was an embarrassingly poor evaluation of evidence by the prosecution."

In Prof Dobyn's opinion, Kyle died of water on the brain and an epileptic fit.

He added: "This was a perfect storm of unfavourable events - anything is possible but there is a more reasonable explanation.

"There were no obvious signs of injury and little doubt he had a fit."

Kyle Fisher had suffered a head injury that left him with a drooping eye

Throughout Ms Holdsworth's trial, the most common picture shown of the little boy shows a beaming Kyle with a prominently drooping right eye.

This was triggered by a fall some months previous to his death during which he fractured his eye socket.

Behind the eye there was a hole the size of a coin and he was due to have an operation.

According to the prosecution the long-standing injury had nothing to do with his death.

But according to Prof Dobyns: "Kyle Fisher was never a normal boy.

"He was walking and talking, but part of his brain was hanging down into his eye socket. He was vulnerable to medical complications."

Crucially, according to the defence, no evidence was found to prove the boy's head had been battered against the banister.

'No murderer'

No hair, tissue or blood was found, not even a dent in the wood, according to Neil Garton, a forensic scientist.

Ms Holdsworth's partner Lee Spencer has never doubted her innocence.

He said: "I've known Suzanne for 18 years of my life and she is no murderer.

"If I thought she could ever snap in the way that they say she did, she would never be near my children."

Even Kyle's father, John Taylor, is still bewildered that she was ever convicted in the first place, and believes she was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

He said: "It just happened to be that she was babysitting.

"I could have been babysitting that night and could have been the one who was sent to prison.""