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Man found guilty of murdering toddler

Noah Serra-Morrison
Noah Serra-Morrison

A man has been found guilty of murdering his girlfriend's 13-month-old son in the UK.

Noah Serra-Morrison was found dead on November 21 2015 after suffering 15 fractures to his body, including a 6in (15cm) wound across his skull.

Medical experts said the toddler's injuries were so severe they were similar to those arising from a car crash or a fall from a building.

A jury at Luton Crown Court took 10 hours to unanimously find Hardeep Hunjan, 27, guilty of murder. Noah's mother, Ronnie Tayler-Morrison, 22, was cleared of the same charge.

The couple, of Crawley Road, Luton, were each found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child and of cruelty to a child under 16.

Both of them silently put their heads in their hands as the verdicts were read out.

They will be sentenced at the same court on Friday afternoon.

Prosecutor Jane Bickerstaff QC had told the court that Noah's injuries were likely to have been caused by him being deliberately and violently swung against a wall or floor, or by his limbs being twisted with ''severe force''.

Hunjan and Tayler-Morrison both said they did not know how Noah was killed but, if he had been murdered, then the other person was to blame.

They also told paramedics and neighbours that Noah injured himself falling from his cot - a claim which Ms Bickerstaff said was impossible.

The couple had binged on drink and drugs during Noah's last hours.

Ms Bickerstaff told the court the pair delayed calling paramedics for an hour as they tried to cover up the ''deliberate'' crime, trying to wash away forensic evidence in a shower in the ''blind hope that somehow they might get away with it''.

They repeatedly lied to police during interviews and after they were released on bail fled to Scotland, which the prosecutor said was because they knew what doctors would uncover.

The trial heard Noah was subjected to horrific and deliberate abuse for weeks before he died.

A post-mortem examination revealed that he suffered fractures to an arm and leg around a week before his death, and similar injuries to an arm and leg between four and six weeks before he died - 15 fractures in total, along with bruising over his entire body.

Ms Bickerstaff said they were deliberate injuries, consistent with a "road traffic collision or a fall from greater than one storey".

Noah would have been severely brain-damaged if he had survived.

The unemployed couple began living together shortly after Tayler-Morrison separated from Noah's father in July last year.

Their "chaotic" relationship was fuelled by alcohol and cannabis and based on "love, jealousy and control'', Ms Bickerstaff said.

Tayler-Morrison wrote in her diary: "I don't see life without him, and as much as this sounds selfish I know that I love Noah but I love Hardeep more."

The couple told a health visitor they did not use drugs or alcohol, but jurors were told a video from November 19 showed Tayler-Morrison almost unconscious from using a device that allowed her to smoke three joints at once.

The evening before Noah died the couple again smoked cannabis and downed a full bottle of vodka after putting the toddler to bed, the court heard.

At 1.45am on November 21, Tayler-Morrison searched the internet for "my baby is hurt'' and "my baby is breathing but not moving".

Half an hour later she phoned her student nurse sister, telling her she had found Noah on the floor after he pulled a fan on to his cot, and that he was "awake and moving, with his eyes open", but "not with it and not crying".

But she did not call an ambulance until almost 3.30am. Hunjan apparently attempted CPR, but Ms Bickerstaff said that if he did so "it was a false and futile attempt, for show".

Paramedics were left waiting at the door, the court was told, and Noah was found on a bedroom floor, cold and with major swelling to the right side of his head, no heartbeat and not breathing.

Hardeep Hunjan, 27, and his partner Ronnie Tayler-Morrison, 22, using a device to smoke three joints at once

He was pronounced dead in hospital at 4.10am.

Police broke into the flat and arrested Hunjan, finding him hiding under a duvet in the kitchen with his dog, while Tayler-Morrison was arrested at the hospital.

Noah's father, Stefano Coiana, said in a statement after the verdicts: "When Noah was alive he made my life happy. It wasn't his job to make me happy but he did. He did it by just being here.

"He completed my life - he made life worth being here, worth waking up in the morning and worth trying again and again even when I failed."

He described Noah as "the most important thing to me", adding: "I had someone that loved me and I loved him.

"It was good to love Noah. He loved me unconditionally - what can you say to describe how that feels? It was just so very, very good. I don't see a lot in my future without him."

Noah's paternal grandmother, Maria Serra, remember Noah as an inquisitive, "happy, cheerful soul" and "just that extra sparkle of something special".

The much-loved toddler was affectionate, "very cheeky", enjoyed music, liked being sung to and "all that is good in life you could find in the expressions on Noah's face".

She added: "Noah was affectionate and his affections for the people in his life knew no limits."

Noah's maternal grandmother, Varsha Patel, said she would remember the curly-haired boy with "lovely big dark eyes" - whom she called Nolly - as "a happy and smiley baby and a pleasure to be with at all times".

She said: "His early departure on the 21 November 2015 has left a massive void in our lives as he was loved by all of us. Nolly will be greatly missed but never forgotten. He will always remain in our hearts forever and ever. Our loss, heaven's gain."

Detective Inspector Fraser Wylie of Bedfordshire Police described the case as "one of the most shocking and sickening cases of violence we have ever come across".

He said: "Rarely do we come across a case that involves such sheer malice and utter cruelty against a small child, by two people who were supposed to love and care for him.

"Throughout this case the disregard shown by both Tayler-Morrison - Noah's own mother - and Hunjan has been evident, not least in the fact they attempted to evade justice by attempting to flee to Scotland whilst on bail.

"Poor Noah experienced fear, pain, neglect and extreme brutality during his too-short life. No child deserves that, and it has been evident throughout our investigation and the trial that Tayler-Morrison and Hunjan chose a tumultuous, drug and alcohol-fuelled lifestyle over his happiness and welfare.

"Little Noah suffered unimaginably as a result of the volatility of his mother's relationship with Hunjan, who today has been convicted of the little boy's murder. Even in his death he was denied any dignity by being left to suffer for more than an hour."

A serious case review has been launched by the Luton Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) to look into the actions and decisions of the organisations which had contact with Noah and his parents.

LSCB chairman Fran Pearson said: "It will establish whether there are lessons to be learnt from the case regarding the way professionals and agencies work together to safeguard children at risk."

A Luton Council spokesman said it "was not directly involved with this family and as a serious case review is under way, it would be inappropriate to comment on this case".

A spokesman for Ealing Council in west London said it is "participating in the serious case review" but it could not comment further while that is under way.