South West Wales

Baby painkiller murder: Mother Michelle Smith gets life

A mother has been jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering her baby daughter with adult painkillers.

Michelle Smith, 34, of Swansea, who denied poisoning Amy in 2007, will serve at least 12 years.

Amy had been taken to hospital, but she died later, and the drug dihydrocodeine was found in her blood.

Smith walked into a police station in January and said: "I did it", before retracting her confession minutes later, Swansea Crown Court heard.

The jury had been out since Wednesday, and Smith broke down as it delivered its verdict.

Judge Mr Justice Spencer told Smith, of Morriston, only she knew why she "chose to deliberately administer that drug to a helpless baby".

He said: "In all probability you were craving and seeking attention from the doctors in the hospital".

Afterwards, Det Sgt Justin Evans from South Wales Police said: "Amy was only six weeks old when she was killed by the one person who should have done more than any other to keep her safe.

"She would have been approaching her fifth birthday and Michelle Smith's actions have left a family without a much loved little girl."

Smith maintained her innocence during the trial, telling the jury someone in a hospital must have administered it.

She was said to have mixed the painkiller, which had previously been prescribed for her and her husband, Christopher Smith, into her daughter's feed.

On three separate occasions during her brief six weeks of life she was urgently taken to hospital.

The first occasion came when 17-day-old Amy was found at home "lying on her back perfectly still with her eyes wide open".

Breathing problems

Suffering breathing problems and physically "floppy", her symptoms, retrospectively, did appear like the effects of drug poisoning, the trial was told.

Doctors at Singleton Hospital, Swansea, found she had a breathing ratio of half the normal rate and gave her oxygen.

As her condition worsened she was urgently transferred to the paediatric intensive care unit at University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff.

From there she rapidly improved and was released to a normal ward for observation within a day.

Soon after she was transferred back to Swansea and was later released home after being prescribed antibiotics as a precaution.

Amy was then taken three times to the Swansea hospital on successive days for the antibiotics to be administered.

On the third visit, Smith told doctors Amy had been sleepy and only managed a small feed that day, and was quickly found to have breathing problems again.

Intensive care

She was tested, a urine sample taken, and was ultimately sent back to the same paediatric intensive care unit in Cardiff.

Events then followed a similar sequence to the earlier visit and Amy was returned home again apparently healthy.

Meanwhile the urine sample had tested positive for an as yet unidentified drug.

Sent away to a specialist lab and identified as dihydrocodeine (DHC), the finding, unaccountably, was not passed to Amy's doctors at the time, the court heard.

The court heard that after her arrest in September 2010 Mrs Smith denied administering any medicine to Amy, "not even Calpol."

She was charged in June 2011 and released on bail.

But jurors heard that on 6 January this year she sent a text message to her father-in-law saying she was going "to give myself up".

The jury heard that more than four years after Amy's death she walked into Neath police station and told an officer: "I did it. I did it. I killed Amy."

She signed a police officer's notebook confirming what she had said but only five minutes later retracted her "confession".

More on this story