Southampton Dad Was 'Risk To Children'

7 November 2013, 15:25

An inquest's heard a three-month-old baby found dead with a fractured skull had a father with a previous conviction for child cruelty who was considered a "massive risk to young children''.

Hamid Baldelli had served a year in jail for the offence against another young child in another part of the country. That youngster also suffered a skull fracture and fractures to its limbs.

After serving his time, one social worker in a report assessed he was a massive risk to young children with control, power and anger issues, the hearing was told.

However, due to no national register for those convicted of child cruelty, social services in Southampton, where the child Nico Maynard died, knew nothing of his past.

A serious case review of the death published last week called for a national register to be set up for those who commit such crimes, so they can be more easily tracked.

After leaving prison in 2009, Mr Baldelli moved to Hampshire and started a relationship with Jodie Maynard and the couple lived in Southampton.

He had been told he had to tell his partner about his crime and the authorities if he had more children, but did not do so when the couple had twins, Nico and a sister, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

The pair even changed Mr Baldelli's surname on the birth certificate to stop social services from finding out about his past, Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman said.

The court in Southampton was told that Mr Baldelli found Nico cold and stiff and face down in his moses basket in the early hours of September 22 2011 and an ambulance was called.

The baby was pronounced dead at hospital later.

Detective inspector Linda Howard from Hampshire police said the death was initially considered non-suspicious but investigations found out about Mr Baldelli's past crime.

Examinations of Nico found a fracture to the thigh bone and the skull fracture and further tests discovered a brain injury that was probably linked to the skull fracture and that the injury had happened several days previously.

The surviving twin was also examined and a fracture to the tibia and a suspected fractured skull were found.

The couple were arrested on suspicion of murder and gave no explanation about the injuries except to say Nico had fallen off a sofa two weeks previously, the officer told the hearing.

But Ms Howard said this was not a plausible explanation of the injuries.

Mr Wiseman said asked the officer if the investigation was wide ranging and that there was a high level of suspicion surrounding the parents.

"Yes there was indeed sir,'' Ms Howard replied. "And we obviously looked at the history of the parents and the previous incident as well.''

But the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) did not charge the pair because it was not possible to know who caused the injuries because they happened over a wide time scale when the mother and father and other family members had care of Nico, Ms Howard explained.

To complicate matters further, a succession of experts could not give one cause of death, even though the skull fracture was significant, the police officer said.

Pathologist Russell Delaney said that there were three factors in the death of Nico. The skull fracture and brain injury, the fact the child was face down in the basket, which is well known as a cause of infant death, and that Nico had a chronic lung inflammation that, although not severe enough to cause the death, could have contributed to it.

"It's possible that Nico died as a result of the cumulative affects of all these three factors conspiring to cause his sudden death, although it's not possible for me to pick out any one of these factors and say one was more significant than the others,'' he explained.

Mr Delaney said the fact was that Nico died with a head injury but did not die of a head injury. A detailed hearing into the case was held in front of Mr Justice Baker, the inquest was told.

He found that on the balance of probability - a much lesser burden of proof than that required in a criminal case - Mr Baldelli was responsible for inflicting the injuries on the children. The judge mentioned a probation report at the time of Mr Baldelli's release that recorded a comment from a senior social worker.

Mr Wiseman read out the comments which said: "She has assessed the father (Mr Baldelli) as being a massive risk to young children.

"Concerns were raised in relation to issues relating to power, control and his very poor anger management.

"It's her view the father failed to demonstrate his remorse and had poor victim empathy, which is further complicated by his high level of denial regarding his offending behaviour.''

In his judgment, Mr Justice Baker called Mr Baldelli an "unimpressive witness'' and "a habitual liar''.

Miss Maynard was described as a plausible witness but her credibility was undermined by her lies to the court, her family and professionals about her ongoing relationship with Mr Baldelli.

"My clear impression from listening to the evidence of the parents that they have not told the whole truth about caring for the twins,'' the judge said.

He said they minimised the difficulties they faced caring for the twins which would have been a challenge and he said the parents were under a great strain.

He said he found that Mr Baldelli "had a temper and a deposition to outbursts of anger which he could at times not control and this had led him on several occasions to inflict injuries upon his children''.

He also said that Miss Maynard was "culpable of an appalling failure to protect her children''.

 "She either knows or ought to know what happened but has resolutely refused to countenance the possibility that the father injured the children,'' the judge said.

He concluded that the most likely way the fracture occurred was by a blunt trauma to the head but he agreed with the experts that the injury did not solely cause the death.

Mr Wiseman recorded an open verdict and said there was considerable uncertainty on how Nico came to die.