April 2007

Abuser staged car crash to cover-up scalding of child

A man who staged a car crash to cover up the injuries he had inflicted on a four-month-old girl was jailed today for seven years.

Timothy Mallard, 23, deliberately drove his car, with the infant on the front passenger seat, into a tree on a country lane near Witham-on-the-Hill, Lincolnshire, on October 4, 2005.

The forester, who has an IQ of just 75, hatched the plan after the infant was scalded with boiling water 48 hours earlier, causing severe burns to her hands and feet.

He planned to pass off the child’s injuries by claiming she had been burned in the car fire.

Mallard admitted charges of inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, and child cruelty, at an earlier hearing.

Passing sentence at Lincoln Crown Court, Judge Michael Heath said: “What you did was, to that four-month-old baby, simply dreadful and it is my public duty to punish you severely for it.

“There has to be a substantial prison sentence because I must reflect society’s abhorrence to such cruelty to a defenceless baby.”

Mallard was also disqualified from working with children for life.

Mallard’s partner, Tracey Watson, 28, was given a 12 month sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting a charge of cruelty.

The court heard both defendants, formerly of Station Street, Rippingdale, Lincolnshire, failed to seek medical attention for the baby when she was first injured. Medical experts told the court the baby would have been in severe pain and very distressed by her injuries.

University-educated Watson, a former youth worker, was also disqualified from working with children for life.

Maureen Baker, prosecuting, told the court it was not clear who was responsible for scalding the baby, but experts believe her hands were deliberately held in a vessel of boiling water.

Mallard staged the crash in a bid to cover up the scalding with burns from a naked flame because he worried he would lose contact with the child if the truth was uncovered.

On the day of the stage-managed accident Mallard told passing motorists he had lost control of the car and it had burst into flames upon impact with the tree.

Three people who stopped on the lane after spotting Mallard with the baby did not see the car on fire. One even gave him a lift to the nearest village so he could call the emergency services.

But by the time the fire service appeared Mallard had returned to the scene and set a fire in the footwell of the vehicle. He then held the baby close to the flames, causing blistering to her feet.

She was taken to hospital where experts found bruising to her chest, both cheeks and multiple rib fractures which had been caused on two different occasions.

She was transferred to a specialist burns unit in Leicester where she underwent two operations and spent time in the intensive care unit. She will also be scarred for life.

An investigation of the crash scene showed Mallard had driven into the tree at about nine miles per hour.

The infant, who was wearing just a nappy, was not sitting in a car seat or wearing a seatbelt.

Judge Heath said: “The Crown accepts that the scalding was sustained on October 2. The Crown cannot say who was responsible for those burns.

“They were not accidental. They were deliberately inflicted.

“Two days later you (Mallard) stage-managed a fake car accident and you pretended it had resulted in a fire and the baby had been injured and burned.

“You deliberately set a fire in the front passenger side of your car. You deliberately caused flame burns to the baby and that was to cover-up for the immersion burns.”

Judge Heath said he took into account mitigation that suggested Mallard was a man of low intelligence who was “gullible, inadequate, easily manipulated and who was in turmoil” when he faked the crash.

“(But) accepting these characteristics I still find it difficult to understand how you could do what you did to the baby.”

Addressing Watson, who admitted her guilt on the day she was due to stand trial, Judge Heath added: “We still do not know the whole truth about this affair and I doubt whether we ever shall.

“You have told many, many lies in this case. You are an intelligent woman who can be manipulative at times. But I accept that you are not a monster.”

The judge said he accepted medical evidence that suggested Watson was suffering from depression and other medical ailments at the time the baby was injured. He also considered that custody could be detrimental to her mental state.

Mallard was also handed a 12 month sentence, to run concurrently, after admitting keeping a firearm without a valid certificate.

Three further counts of child cruelty against both defendants were ordered to lie on file.

Detective Inspector Stuart Gibbon, of Lincolnshire Police, described the baby’s injuries as “appalling” but said she had made progress and is now is good health.

“The catalogue of abuse that this baby suffered is absolutely appalling. This is, without doubt, one of the most difficult cases I have been involved in.

“The nature of the injuries sustained defies belief and was incredibly distressing for everyone involved in this case.

“It is hard to believe that another human being could inflict such pain on someone else, especially a defenceless baby.

“Considering the injuries the baby had, she has made remarkable progress. Miraculously, she is still able to use her hands, but is likely to always have scars that will remind her of what happened to her.

“We can only hope that she will have no memory of the experience.

“We received fantastic support from the hospitals and specialists that we needed to approach for their expert knowledge and I’d like to thank them. Their role in this case was crucial.”

Allison Cunningham, a spokeswoman for Lincolnshire CPS, added: “This has been a tragic and harrowing case.

“A thorough investigation and prosecution by Lincolnshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service has resulted in both defendants pleading guilty to offences against this four-month-old baby.

“I can only hope that she continues to make progress in recovering from her appalling injuries.”

Outside court, friends of Mallard described him as a “gentle and lovely guy”.

Brian Speechley told BBC News: “It’s just so strange that he has changed in this way. He treated the baby very well.

“The baby was scalded, but as the Judge said, he can still not get to the bottom of it. Nobody will ever know the truth of what happened.”