Baby boy died from 'whiplash' injuries caused by shaking, trial hears

Woman from Bethnal Green and man from Ockendon on trial for causing death of baby boy

Two people are on trial after a baby boy died in a flat in Dagenham on October 5, 2018 - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

A baby boy who died in Dagenham passed away after being shaken by his mother’s new boyfriend, a trial has been told.

Albie Johnson died at almost 10-months-old from fatal “whiplash” injuries reportedly inflicted by South Ockendon man Mitchell Gibbs, who stands accused of manslaughter.

Gibbs, 28, was in a relationship with Albie's 22-year-old mother Sophie Crowther, who left her son in his care to go to a café on the day he died.

Crowther - of Bethnal Green - has been charged with three charges of child cruelty.

The pair deny all charges, and are currently on trial at Woolwich Crown Court.

On October 5, 2018, Gibbs is alleged to have caused fatal “whiplash” injuries to Albie through shaking while Crowther was out.

Jurors heard that the pair had been in a relationship for just four weeks when paramedics were called to her flat in Dagenham to respond to Albie's injuries.

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Despite receiving emergency medical treatment, he died at Great Ormond Street Hospital two days later.

The cruelty charges levelled against Crowther relate to her allegedly leaving Albie alone with Gibbs on the day he was injured and twice assaulting her son.

She allegedly did this by hitting his bare leg and foot, and pulling him from his cot by his clothes before throwing him onto the sofa.

The offences reportedly took place between July 1 and August 31, 2018.

Prosecutor Sally O’Neill QC told a jury there was no dispute the “severe injuries” that killed Albie were caused unlawfully by him “being forcibly shaken so that his head went violently backwards and forwards”.

“There is no issue that this is what was done to Albie and that he died as a result of what was done to him,” she said.

“It must be apparent that whoever did that to him was acting unlawfully in the full knowledge that they were causing at least some harm to the baby.

“That is manslaughter and the prosecution case is that the person who acted in that way with Albie, also probably throwing him onto a hard surface, was Mitchell Gibbs.

“He denies that, which leaves the only other person as far as he is concerned who could have done it was Sophie Crowther.”

But the prosecutor said “it is not conceivable” the injuries were caused before she went to a nearby café before returning to the flat after around 12 minutes with a bacon roll later found on the sofa.

“Her responsibility for what happened was for having left her 10-month-old son in the care of someone she had been in a relationship with for only four weeks and who was smoking cannabis at the time,” she added.

Jurors were told Ms Crowther said in a 11.16am 999 call: “He was drinking his bottle and then he just started choking and now he’s gone all limp and he’s turning blue.”

Just three minutes earlier, Gibbs had told a friend during a phone call “he was smoking a zoot," the court heard.

“This would have been just before Sophie Crowther arrived back at the flat,” said Ms O’Neill.

“If that was true and Mitchell Gibbs was the person who had deliberately and forcefully shaken Albie, he went back to smoking his cannabis after he had done so.”

The court heard both defendants initially lied about what had happened by claiming Albie started choking while he was in his cot drinking juice, before Gibbs picked him up and “shook him a bit” and she did CPR on him.

Crowther has already pleaded guilty to a count of perverting the course of justice relating to the lies she told to the emergency operator, a doctor and police.

The trial, which is expected to last up to five weeks, continues.

Both defendants are on bail.