New medical evidence could clear childminder
convicted of shaking 11-month-old girl to death
By NICK PRYER
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
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.
|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
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
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."