London Daily Mail

New medical evidence could clear childminder convicted of shaking 11-month-old girl to death
9th March 2008

New medical evidence could clear childminder Keran Henderson, who is serving a three-year prison sentence after being convicted of shaking an 11-month-old girl to death.

A mother-of-two and a former Scout leader, Keran, 43, has always insisted she did not harm Maeve Sheppard.

But the jury at her trial last November heard a succession of expert witnesses swear that Maeve suffered injuries to her brain and bleeding in the eyes indicating shaken baby syndrome.

There is already deep disquiet about the case. Two jurors said they believe there was a miscarriage of justice.

A prosecution witness also expressed doubts and Keran's husband Iain, a former policeman of Iver Heath, in Buckinghamshire, wrote in The Mail on Sunday last month that the conviction relied solely on the conflicting views of paid "experts".

But a BBC Panorama investigation will tomorrow reveal new research that suggests the science behind shaken baby syndrome is flawed and that the 15-20 convictions every year involving the diagnosis may be unsafe.

The prevailing-wisdom is that the syndrome is proved by a "triad" of symptoms including brain swelling and bleeding to the retina and the surface of the brain.

But Panorama reporter John Sweeney has spoken to experts in America whose new research could demolish the basis for the diagnosis.

Dr Chris Van Ee, professor of biomechanics at Wayne State University in Detroit, claims tests with crash dummies and corpses show that falling off a sofa does far more damage than shaking.
Keran Henderson
Keran Henderson

Maeve Sheppard
Maeve Sheppard
He showed Panorama a test in which a dummy representing a one-year-old child generated a force of 109 times the acceleration due to gravity when dropped from a sofa on to its head.

When Sweeney shook a dummy the force was only 7G, less than a pillowfight.

Dr Van Ee said: "10Gs is a rocket launch, and here we have 110Gs for a fall off the sofa. That could be a fatal impact.
"Shaken baby syndrome is fundamentally flawed from a biomechanics perspective."

Meanwhile, North Carolina pathologist Dr Pat Lantz found retinal bleeding in the eyes of one in six corpses he studied.

This suggests that bleeds in the eye are more common than thought and therefore can't be proof of shaken baby syndrome.

Some medics suggest retinal bleeding can be due to attempts to resuscitate. Keran tried to give Maeve mouth-to-mouth.

The scientific doubts will be the basis for an appeal against Keran's conviction - and potentially for dozens more appeals.

But the challenge will be fiercely resisted by Maeve's heartbroken parents Mark and Ruth, who have two surviving children.

Mr Sheppard said: "We got what we thought was a fair verdict. We have a little girl who points up to our photographs and says "Who's that?" and we tell her it's Maeve.

"In 18 months, Keran Henderson will go home to a loving husband and two loving children - I will never have Maeve back."

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