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Appliance of science helps force convict mother of baby's 'squeeze' death


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3D images that are thousands of times more enhanced than hospital CT scans reveal microscopic fractures to the girl's rib cage.

Baby killer: Abigail Palmer convicted of manslaughter

Baby killer: Abigail Palmer convicted of manslaughter

Date - 5th April 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle


A force has become the first in the UK to use space-age science to support an investigation that proved a mother squeezed her baby to death.

Detectives embraced futuristic 3D-scan technology to help win a conviction that yesterday saw killer Abigail Palmer begin a 13-and-a-half year prison term for the manslaughter of her daughter.

Palmer crushed nine-week-old Teri-Rae – causing a total of 10 rib fractures – in what officers suspected was a violent response to her daughter’s cries for attention.

West Midlands Police called in the cutting-edge WMG research centre at Warwick University to use its technology to identify microscopic fractures to the tragic tot.

The 3D images that are thousands of times more enhanced than hospital CT scans revealed tiny hairline cracks to the girl's ribcage.

The force, which has developed a pioneering partnership with the university, said in a statement: “The technology has been used for some time in industries like aerospace and automotive – where atomic material failures can have catastrophic consequences – but we are the first UK force to embrace the science to support investigations.”

Initially, the baby’s death was not thought to be suspicious.

There were no signs of injury and Palmer claimed she awoke on the settee by her baby on January 2, 2017 to find her “blue and lifeless”.

But an investigation was launched days later after a skeletal examination showed three healing rib fractures.

Later, a forensic post-mortem confirmed the baby did not die suddenly but over a period of up to three hours when her brain was starved of oxygen.

The force called in micro-CT scanning experts at the university to get more detailed images of the child's injuries.

The injuries would have shallowed Teri-Rae's breathing due to the pain and slowly she would have suffocated, medical experts concluded.

Palmer was charged with manslaughter and on Thursday jailed at Birmingham Crown Court after she was found guilty by a jury.

Sergeant Mick Byron, from the force’s child abuse investigation team, said: "We were able to show that Teri-Rae suffered 10 rib fractures over a four to 12-hour period.

"Palmer had been at a pub for six hours on New Year's Day but claimed to have drank mainly squash, not alcohol, as that would have breached a condition of the child protection plan she was bound by.

"We didn’t believe her… and neither did the jury. We suspect she came home drunk, was awoken by her baby in the night and inflicted these terrible injuries in response to Teri-Rae's crying.

"Palmer admitted the baby was never out of her sight and never mishandled by anyone else; she offered no plausible accidental explanation for her daughter's injuries.

"There was no indication Teri-Rai suffered a bone fragility condition and she was not independently mobile enough to have injured herself.

"Significant force is required to cause rib fractures in a baby… the presence of rib fractures in a baby of this age is indicative of abusive, deliberately inflicted, injury.

"This was a truly heart-breaking case to investigate, that a little baby's life was taken by the one person who should have been protecting her."

Professor Mark Williams, of the University of Warwick added: "State-of-the-art 3D scanning technology allowed us to identify multiple fractures to Teri-Rae's ribs that had occurred over an extended period of time.

"The ability to produce highly detailed 3D images of these shocking injuries helped establish the truth and show what had happened."

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