Baby’s death ‘could not have been prevented’

Martin Thomas with a picture of his baby daughter Evie
Martin Thomas with a picture of his baby daughter Evie

THE death of a Wigan tot whose father was cleared of battering her could not have been prevented, social service watchdogs have ruled.

But a serious case review into the four-month life of Evie Thomas concludes that there was a missed opportunity to intervene when she suffered an earlier injury.

The tragic death of the child cannot be found to be a preventable one

Wigan Safeguarding Board has since made 18 recommendations on the back of the tragedy including training for non-specialists in recognising non-accidental injuries among children and a protocol for injuries to “non-mobile” children.

This heightens the likelihood that youngsters who are too young or disabled to move much will be referred to social services and a paediatrician for assessment because their injuries are very unlikely to have been accidental.

A jury took just 20 minutes to clear Martin Thomas of five counts of GBH with intent and five lesser charges of GBH against little Evie Grace last year. The Beech Hill tot had suffered 13 broken ribs and three skull fractures in five separate incidents before her death in 2013.

Mark Kellet, prosecuting, told the jury that it was believed that the skull fractures were “likely to have been caused by hitting her head against a flat surface or striking her head with a blunt instrument.”

Under cross-examination, 30-year-old Mr Thomas denied attacking his daughter and said that the injuries were caused when another child fell on the baby while holding a toy telephone.

The former Heinz worker who has since moved out of the area, later spoke to the Wigan Observer of both his distress and relief after the trial.

But if he thought his legal and social service tribulations were over, he was much mistaken.

Last month a family court judge took the unprecedented step of naming Mr Thomas as Evie’s attacker, despite the Liverpool Crown Court not guilty verdicts.

Mr Justice Jackson, who had ruled in a custody battle between Mr Thomas and his former partner over Evie’s sister two years ago, agreed to lift the usual cloak of anonymity from the civil case in order to clear mum Hayley Fisher’s name over the assaults.

She had asked him to name them both because part of Thomas’s trial defence was also to infer that the terrible wounds suffered by their daughter might have been inflicted by his ex instead.

Mr Justice Jackson described Mr Thomas a “determined liar” and said he was satisfied that Ms Fisher had no idea what Mr Thomas “was doing to their daughter.”

He added: “I find that sole responsibility for Evie’s injuries rests with the father and that the mother is entitled to be exonerated.”

Both parents were initially arrested on suspicion of Evie’s murder although the investigation was subsequently dropped against the mother and then a lesser charge put to Mr Thomas because a strong medical link could not be made between the injuries and the youngster’s death.

An inquest held into Evie’s death recorded an open verdict.

The family court ruling and disclosures were only issued recently because the judge was waiting for the criminal proceedings to conclude.

The same reason for delay was this week named by WSCB in now issuing its case review which does not identify the family but clearly relates to baby Evie’s death.

The report states that “the tragic death of the child cannot be found to be a preventable one.” But it adds that there was a “missed opportunity to prevent or curtail subsequent injuries and suffering to the child” following an earlier injury to her in the months before her death.