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Whitechapel mum allowed to grieve for baby son after she is cleared of murder

PUBLISHED: 12:24 24 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:25 05 October 2010

A YOUNG mum accused of murdering her baby son has finally been cleared an agonising 18 months after his death. Prosecutors claimed Saleha Khatun, 23, had shaken or caused head injuries to Mohammed Yassen Uddin, leading to his death from massive brain trau

A YOUNG mum accused of murdering her baby son has finally been cleared an agonising 18 months after his death.

Prosecutors claimed Saleha Khatun, 23, had shaken or caused head injuries to Mohammed Yassen Uddin, leading to his death from massive brain trauma in June last year.

But at a hearing at the Old Bailey last week the prosecution offered no evidence against her and a formal verdict of not guilty was entered by Judge Richard Hone QC.

At the hearing the judge pledged to review the handling of baby death prosecutions in a bid to prevent delay and minimise parental heartache.

Mrs Khatun, of Hunton Street, Whitechapel, always maintained Mohammed's injuries had been caused by a fall from a bed and denied killing her son.

She was arrested on the night her son died, along with her husband, and, although charges against him were dropped, Mrs Khatun was charged with murder in June of this year and was due to face trial on January 4.

But medical experts for the prosecution could not agree on how Mohammed's injuries were caused and Mrs Khatun's solicitors gathered evidence from five different experts which backed her claims.

Mrs Khatun's barrister Michael Turner QC claimed his client had been victimised and refused the right to grieve.

He said: "If a young mother as Mrs Khatun was, of impeccable character and mothering skills, suffered this tragedy in another part of the country she would have been comforted and allowed to grieve. In this jurisdiction she was charged with murder."

He criticised the decision to prosecute as Crown medical experts had failed to agree on the cause of the fatal injuries.

Mohammed died on June 10 last year after desperate attempts to save his life, including operations to remove part of his skull and brain to relieve pressure, at Whitechapel's Royal London Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Two prosecution experts offered differing opinions over the cause of the injuries, with one claiming Mohammed had been shaken violently and the other suggesting he had suffered an 'abusive impact head injury'.

But five experts for the defence, including a consultant paediatric neurosurgeon, a neuropathologist and a neuroradiologist, agreed that Mohammed had fallen from a bed at home.

There were no external signs of injury, such as bruising or grip marks, to suggest abuse, it was said.

The judge said: "It has taken from June 9, 2008 until now for the errors to be recognised. One can only imagine if Mrs Khatun had been in custody all this time.

"The cost to the tax payer in this case has been considerable and Mrs Khatun's life has been on hold for 18 months."

Mrs Khatun, whose husband had been sitting in the well of the court throughout the hearing, was cleared by the judge and allowed to leave the dock after prosecutor Richard Whittam QC offered no evidence against her.

Mr Whittam said: "As a result of consultations I have had in this case and consideration of the prosecution expert evidence as a whole, including opinions given in those consultations, I advised the Crown Prosecution Service there was no longer a realistic prospect of conviction in this case."

Judge Hone said such cases were 'extremely difficult' and needed 'very careful investigation' but did raise concerns over the time taken to reach such a decision.

He said: "There is nothing really I can usefully say except for the time it has taken and to express my regret that Mrs Khatun has been kept in a state of misery for this period. It is not a case where one can apportion blame without a full hearing.

"These cases are very concerning to everyone. Because I have an area of expertise in this type of case I would quite like to have a look at some of the more difficult ones to see if they can be moved forward.

"There must be a better way of progressing the investigations. I will see if we can, with the Crown Prosecution Service, organise a structure.


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