Murder charge dropped by judge

LORNA MARSH A murder charge against a vulnerable Norfolk woman accused of killing her new-born baby has been dropped in a rare move by prosecutors. Angeli Whitehead, 28, was due to face trial over the death of her daughter found dumped in a pub toilet bin but conflicting medical reports made it impossible to ascertain how she had died.

LORNA MARSH

A murder charge against a vulnerable Norfolk woman accused of killing her new-born baby has been dropped in a rare move by prosecutors.

Angeli Whitehead, 28, was due to face trial over the death of her daughter found dumped in a pub toilet bin but conflicting medical reports made it impossible to ascertain how she had died.

Her situation as the mother of a baby who died during childbirth was described as “wretched” by a judge.

Whitehead, of Silver Road, Norwich, was arrested following the discovery of the body of the baby in a pedal bin in the ladies toilets at the Woolpack pub in the remote hamlet of Boot, in Cumbria, on November 17 last year.

Peter Wright, QC, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the child, who had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice, seemed to have died from asphyxia but there were four conflicting medical reports about how this might have happened.

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Natacide, where a pregnant woman determines to kill her child as soon as it is born, had been considered with the possibility that the infant died as a result of deliberate strangulation.

But a doctor's report found the symptoms may be similar to those of an unattended birth.

“It is difficult to come to a firm conclusion one way or another,” said Mr Wright.

“The injuries are consistent not only with homicide but the end result of an unattended labour and there is nothing to indicate the child was deliberately killed.

“The cause of death remains unascertained. We are left with competing medical evidence about the case of death,” he said.

He asked the judge, Mr Justice Openshaw, to take “the unusual step” of letting the murder charge lie on the file.

Whitehead had also denied alternative charges of manslaughter and infanticide and these were also ordered to lie on the file.

Mr Wright said that a psychiatric report showed Whitehead “has no treatable condition but she presents as an extremely unusual and odd woman in her conduct”.

He said there was the risk that if she gave evidence her impression on the jury might overly influence the jury rather than the medical evidence.

Whitehead had pleaded guilty to trying to conceal the birth of the child and the judge adjourned sentence to enable a probation report to be prepared but he indicated that a custodial sentence would be inappropriate.

“Her wretched situation as a mother of a child who died during birth is thoroughly deserving of sympathy and understanding. The pre-sentence report should be directed towards her vulnerability, disturbed mental state and welfare,” he said.

Whitehead is also to be sentenced for stealing £5,697 from a relative's bank account between January and May last year and dishonestly claiming state benefits by falsely claiming she was pregnant.

She was further remanded on bail to await sentence at Preston Crown Court in early October.