Months after father was cleared of her murder, coroner rules 14-week-old baby died of brain injury from 'violent shaking'

The infant died at the Royal Victoria Hospital only two days after paramedics had been called to her family home on Glasveigh Drive in February 2014


                            Months after father was cleared of her murder, coroner rules 14-week-old baby died of brain injury from 'violent shaking'

A coroner has ruled that a 14-week-old infant girl died after she suffered a massive brain injury caused by "violent shaking". Cárágh Walsh, the infant from Glasveigh Park, Poleglass, Belfast, was also found to have suffered from leg fractures while she was being brutally shaken and it was also discovered that she had a dislocated right elbow. The infant died at the Royal Victoria Hospital only two days after paramedics were called to her family home on Glasveigh Drive in February 2014. Christopher O'Neill, her father, had initially been charged with the murder of his daughter but a jury in 2017 cleared his name in a trial. 

After an inquest was done into the infant's death, Joe McCrisken, the coroner, ruled that the child's cause of death had been hypoxic ischaemic necrosis due to cardio-respiratory arrest, cerebral edema and spinal hemorrhage due to violent shaking.

Tammie-Louise Walsh, the child's mother, as well as multiple other family members, were seen in the public gallery weeping as the coroner was reading out the findings, the Daily Mail reported.

Christopher O'Neill leaving the inquest into the death of his daughter Caragh Walsh at Belfast Coroners Court (Getty Images)
Christopher O'Neill leaving the inquest into the death of his daughter Caragh Walsh at Belfast Coroners Court (Getty Images)

McCrisken described that the inquest was "sensitive and distressing" and also warned everyone who was present at the Belfast Coroner's Court that he wanted to read out his long list of findings to a silent courtroom. He told the inquest: "The events of 5 February, 2014, have irrevocably changed the lives of the Walsh and O'Neill families for the rest of their lives. A tiny baby closed her eyes forever and that tragedy shall weigh heavily on both Mr. O'Neill and Ms. Walsh for the rest of their lives. Neither will fully recover from Cárágh's death."



 

While summarizing the evidence that he gathered, McCrisken said that the infant had woken up and was fed as usual before she was left in the care of O'Neill. He said: "He (Mr O'Neill) told the jury at his trial that Cárágh was asleep in her bouncer while he was watching a DVD. He said that she woke up crying. He described a painful cry."

"He lifted her and rocked her gently in his arms. At some point during this, he said he noticed that Cárágh was having difficulty breathing. He gave police a detailed account of how he shook Cárágh in an attempt to rouse her. He described the force used as a five on a scale of one to 10." 

Tammie-Louise Walsh (second left) leaving the inquest into the death of her daughter Caragh at Belfast Coroners Court (Getty Images)
Tammie-Louise Walsh (second left) leaving the inquest into the death of her daughter Caragh at Belfast Coroners Court (Getty Images)

The coroner also slammed the suggestion that had been made during O'Neill's trial by a medical witness who claimes that the child had suffered from rickets, which is a condition in children that causes weak or soft bones. He said that the infant had suffered from injuries to her rib, leg, and elbow, that had been sustained at least seven to 10 days before she died. 

McCrisken also noted that the injury the child had received to her elbow had been "extremely serious and must have required an exceptional degree of force". During the end of the hearing, the coroner praised the "exemplary care" that has been given to the 14-week-old baby by the medical staff at the hospital. He said: "In my opinion, no criticism of the medical team at the Royal Victoria Hospital or those paramedics who treated Cárágh is justified."