Neglected 18-month-old baby girl had “extensive burns” to her face, inquest heard

The inquest into Kayleigh-Mai's death was heard at Bradford Magistrate's Coroner's Court.
The inquest into Kayleigh-Mai's death was heard at Bradford Magistrate's Coroner's Court.

Injuries which led to the death of an 18-week-old baby girl found by paramedics in front of a gas fire were “non-accidental”, an inquest heard.

Kayleigh-Mai Sheard was discovered dead with extensive injuries, including bite marks and bone fractures, in the early hours of September 30, 2013.

Paramedics found her in front of a gas fire on its highest setting with extensive burns to her face, determined to have been caused after her death.

Kayleigh, who was wearing a baby-grow, had been placed in a ‘baby bouncer’ “right in front of the fire covered in sudocrem - a nappy rash and skin cream, an inquest was told.

Bradford Coroner’s Court heard “extremely concerned” paramedics called the police who started a criminal investigation and charged Kayleigh’s parents Daniel Sheard and Lucy Damen with murder.

But because no cause of death could be ascertained - the pair were later charged with neglect and cruelty to a child.

West Yorkshire Police’s Det Supt Simon Atkinson told the inquest today police had ruled out the possibility of “third-party” involvement in the baby’s death.

He said Sheard had told police “we are not responsible for the death of our child”.

DSI Atkinson said: “Clearly she had extensive injuries incompatible with the narrative of the parents and this was the cause of concern.

“The injuries Kayleigh had were non-accidental and not as a result of being born.

“[After investigation] we could not see anyone else responsible for her injuries.

“Kayleigh’s [wider] family were excluded from seeing her and this was a cause of concern.

“On one occasion on the birthday of her mother Lucy, Kayleigh’s grandfather brought round a card and could not get in to the house.

“At that time I believe she was injured and her parents did not want anyone to see.

“Neighbours spoke of raised voices from the home and periods where a child could be heard crying.

“It is a great regret from neighbours they did not call the police and they feel they will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.”

DSI Atkinson added: “timely medical treatment” may have lead to the survival of the tot prior to her death and the injuries were sustained while in the family home.

A jury heard at Leeds Crown Court the tot’s parents “manipulated the scene” because of a fear of social services and were jailed for over 10 years in October 2016.

Sheard, who was found guilty of cruelty to a person under 16, was sentenced to six years and Damen to four-and-a-half.

They were not sentenced for being responsible for or having caused her death and could not be charged with manslaughter as no cause of death could be ascertained.

Kayleigh was referred to social services in June 2013 by doctors at Dewsbury Hospital after bruising was discovered on her cheek.

The tot was found dead at her home in Cleckheaton in September that year.

In a written report, pathologist Richard Shepherd said the burns sustained to Kayleigh’s face “were after her death”.

He said there were no signs the tot had been shaken or any presence of alcohol or opiates in her system.

He added the death did not fulfil the factors for “sudden-death syndrome” to be a cause of death.

Explaining the tot’s injuries, pathologist Stephen Morley said there were “extensive burns” to the face of Kayleigh.

He added: “The timeline of the events include an injury to her shoulder around three months prior to her death, injuries to ribs between four and ten days prior to death and fractures to ribs within four hours of her death.”

In a written statement, a second Pathologist Catherine Ward said there was “evidence of repeated injury” to Kayleigh “in the weeks prior to her death”.

She added that Kayleigh had no underlying medical conditions and had only been to the hospital on one occasion due to constipation.

Recording an open verdict, Assistant Coroner Kirsty Gomersal said: “This is a tragedy of immense proportions where [Kayleigh’s] life was cut so short, so young.

“Examinations failed to establish her death as congenital or from natural disease.

“No cause of death could be ascertained - Kayleigh was discovered unresponsive in front of a gas fire.

“She had sustained extensive injuries prior to her death - the cause of death remains un-ascertained.”

The assistant coroner said she would write to Kirklees Child Safeguarding for a review update since the death of the the tot.

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