England

Lucy Dunford murder trial: Virus death 'unlikely'

Lesley Dunford
Image caption Lesley Dunford denies murder

A toddler who was found dead in her bed by her mother is unlikely to have died of a streptococcal infection, a pathologist has told Lewes Crown Court.

Professor Tony Risdon was giving evidence in the trial of Lesley Dunford who denies murdering Lucy, aged three.

Ms Dunford, 33, of Exeter, Devon, is accused of killing her daughter at the family home in Camber, Sussex, in 2004.

Mr Risdon said asphyxia was also unlikely but marks on the body seemed to show an imposed airway obstruction.

The paediatric pathologist carried out the first post-mortem examination the day after Lucy died.

The jury has heard Lucy vomited while she was being resuscitated by paramedics, which could have caused food to be inhaled into her lungs.

Injury 'did not bleed'

Mr Risdon said he thought an explanation of asphyxia was unlikely, and an explanation based on an "infection model" was also untenable.

He said they found the virulent streptococcal organism in the child's body, but the infection model required the rapid development of a severe infection sufficient both to cause vomiting and also stop the gag reflex.

The court heard another expert's findings showed streptococcal infection could result in rapid death of infants, but this was not the case in a child aged three-and-a-half.

Prof Risdon said: "Marks on the back, nose and neck seemed to me to be indicative of an imposed airway obstruction."

He also said a cut over Lucy's left eyebrow was caused immediately before death, with no chance of the body starting to react to it.

The wound should have bled profusely but scenes of crime officers found no evidence of bleeding, he said.

"One possibility could be rapid death after it occurred meaning it would not bleed," he told the court.

The jury has heard Ms Dunford put Lucy to bed at 2pm in their home in Pelwood Road but checked on her an hour later and found she was not breathing.

The trial continues.

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