Teenager in soiled nappy left to "rot to death" at Leeds house where baby boy's remains found, manslaughter trial told

Leeds Crown Court
Leeds Crown Court

THE remains of a baby boy were found in a bag at Leeds house where a malnourished 18-year-old man died in squalid conditions after being left to "rot to death" by his mother, sister and grandmother, a jury was told.

Leeds Crown Court heard teenager Jordan Burling was "skin and bone" and weighed less than six stones when paramedics found him lying on a filthy inflatable mattress, covered in pressure sores in the living room at at the house in Farnley in June 2016.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lumley QC, said Mr Burling died as a result of malnutrition, immobility and infection-riddled sores after being "allowed to decay" for several weeks before his death.

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The Leeds Crown Court jury was told his body was likened to those of prisoners held in WWII extermination camps.

His mother Dawn Cranston, 45; grandmother Denise Cranston, 70; and sister Abigail Burling, 25, are on trial accused of manslaughter and an alternative charge causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable adult. They deny all the charges.

Dawn and Densie Cranston are of Butterbowl Garth, Farnley and Abigal Burling is of Cow Close, Leeds.

The jury also heard how a police search of the house after Mr Burling's death uncovered the body of Dawn Cranston's full-term newborn baby, which had been stuffed into a rucksack.

The jury was told Dawn Cranston has admitted endeavouring to conceal the birth of a child.

Opening the prosecution case, Mr Lumley said: "The fault lies with each of the accused. What met the eyes of the paramedics was a shocking and disturbing scene.

"Jordan was lying, utterly helpless, on an inflatable mattress in a cluttered living room.

"He was little more than skin and bones, he weighed 37kg, less than six stones. He wore a soiled nappy under some pyjamas.

"The expert dietitian said they had never seen such malnutrition in 26 years and likened the condition of the body to that found in WWII extermination camps.

"His heart stopped, his life could not be saved; he expired in that living room.

"For reasons which may never be understood, Jordan had been allowed to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him for at least several weeks.

"There was no other reason for his death, no natural or other illness, apart from the conditions created for him by the accused."

The jury heard Jordan was taken out of Farnley Park High School after a couple of terms and was then home-schooled by Dawn Cranston.

The jury was told he didn't take any exams or achieve any qualifications.

Mr Lumley said that from the time he was taken out of school he became "increasingly anonymous."

There were no apparent illnesses which led to his deterioration in health and eventual death on June 30, 2016.

The jury was shown photographs of a freezer and two fridge freezers full of food at the house.

Mr Lumley said: "THe question may ariose as to why he wasn't fed. THios family may not have ben the richest family in Leeds, but Dawn,

Jordan's mother, worked."

A clip of the 999 call made by Dawn Cranston was played to the court. She told the operator: "He's been poorly and having problems breathing.

"He's gasping for breath and not responding. He was refusing to go to the toilet so I put a nappy on him.

"He was fine half an hour ago he was chatting and talking. He's so stubborn he wouldn't go to the doctors."

Mr Lumley told the court: "As that call was taking place an ambulance was dispatched to the house and arrived in minutes.

"The paramedics were - through no fault of their own - late, by many months."

Jordan had suffered pressure sores as a result of barely moving which were infected leaving his bones exposed in places.

The jury was told Jordan's father Steven Burling, with whom he had limited contact, had sent several text messages asking about his son's condition.

He did not see the true extent of what Jordan was suffering but he urged Dawn to take him to the doctors multiple times.

In one message Stephen Burling said: "I've been told by your mother not to come.

"I told you to take him to the doctors and you won't listen to me. He's not the same person."

To which Dawn responded: "The last ten years have been spent battling depression, anxiety attacks and sleeping two hours a day. #problems."

Mr Lumley told the court Jordan died from acute bronchopneumonia, a result of his malnutrition, immobility and infection-riddled sores.

The court heard how police found Google searches on a computer in the house about pressure sores just eight weeks before Jordan's death.

Mr Lumley also told the jury of the find of a baby's remains when police searched the property in Farnley, Leeds.

The child of Dawn Cranston and Steven Burling had grown to full term in the womb but it could not be established if he was born dead or alive, he said.

He added: "Within what would have been Jordan's bedroom, officers found a small rucksack, within which were plastic bags inside plastic bags.

"As the police handled the rucksack, a rancid smelling liquid began to seep from the layers of bags.

"Amongst the liquid were tiny bones, all that remained of a baby boy."