UK court hears mum and boyfriend killed toddler after bingeing on drink and drugs
A young mother and her new boyfriend killed her "whingeing" and "annoying" toddler after bingeing on drink and drugs, a court heard.
Noah Serra-Morrison died on November 21 2015 after suffering 15 fractures to his body, one of which was a 15cm wound across his skull.
Medical experts said the 13-month-old's injuries were so severe they were similar to those caused by a car crash or fall from a building.
Jurors at Luton Crown Court were told they were likely to have been caused by the little boy being deliberately and violently swung against a wall or floor, or by his limbs being twisted with a "severe force".
But his mother Ronnie Tayler-Morrison, 21, and her partner Hardeep Hunjan, 26, repeatedly told police and paramedics he had injured himself falling from a cot - a claim prosecutor Jane Bickerstaff QC suggested was impossible.
She 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 "blind hope that somehow they might get away with it".
The court heard Noah was subjected to horrific and deliberate abuse for weeks before he died.
A post-mortem examination found that as well as the fatal injuries, the toddler suffered fractures to an arm and leg around a week before his death, and similar injuries again to an arm and leg between four and six weeks before he died.
Ms Bickerstaff said the couple repeatedly lied to police during interviews, and after they were released on bail fled to Scotland, where they were caught hiding out in the roof of a house belonging to a friend of Hunjan.
Tayler-Morrison and Hunjan, both of Crawley Road, Luton, each deny charges of murder, causing or allowing the death of a child, and child cruelty.
The court heard the pair began living together shortly after Tayler-Morrison separated from Noah's father in July 2015, staying with relatives and later moving into their Crawley Road flat six weeks before the toddler died.
Ms Bickerstaff said their relationship was "chaotic", fuelled by alcohol and cannabis use, and was based on "love, jealousy and control".
She told jurors 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", while a message found scrawled across a wall in the flat read, "My whole life is dedicated to you and only you".
The court heard Noah was made to sleep in his buggy in a bathroom on a visit to Tayler-Morrison's stepfather because he had "disturbed" Hunjan, while in the weeks before Noah died neighbours in Luton heard the couple screaming, shouting and banging walls, and "extreme" crying from the toddler.
A health visitor who examined Noah on August 19 found him "continually crying" but with "full use" of his limbs, and advised the couple that his cot was too small.
The court heard they told her neither was using cannabis or drugs, and that Hunjan was living elsewhere - both lies, Ms Bickerstaff said.
Jurors were told that a few hours after the health visitor left, a video showed Tayler-Morrison almost passing out after smoking a device that allowed her to inhale fumes from three joints at once.
And the night Noah died the couple again smoked cannabis and downed a full bottle of vodka, the court heard.
Jurors were told that at around midnight on November 20 a neighbour spoke with Hunjan on his doorstep as he cradled Noah, who was wearing just a short-sleeved baby-grow and was not moving or making any sound.
Ms Bickerstaff told the court: "We say he was at least unconscious at this time."
Hunjan told the neighbour Noah had just fallen out of his cot and had a bump on his head, and she told him to call an ambulance.
Ms Bickerstaff said that at 1.45am on November 21 Tayler-Morrison used her phone to search the internet for "my baby is hurt" and then "my baby is breathing but not moving".
Half an hour later she phoned her sister, a student nurse, telling her she had found Noah on the floor after he pulled a fan onto his cot, and that he was "awake and moving, with his eyes open", but "not with it and not crying".
Despite her sister's advice, she did not call an ambulance until almost 3.30am.
Tayler-Morrison called out instructions to Hunjan to do CPR, but Ms Bickerstaff said that if he did it, "it was a false and futile attempt, for show".
Paramedics arrived two minutes after they were called but were left kicking and banging at the front door for some minutes until Tayler-Morrison answered, the court was told, and she told them she was alone in the flat.
Noah was found lying on a bedroom floor in a nappy, cold to touch and with no hearbeat and not breathing.
A paramedic said the swollen right side of his head was like a "boggy mess", and despite efforts to save him at hospital he was pronounced dead at 4.10am.
Police called to the flat broke in and arrested Hunjan after finding him hiding under a duvet in the kitchen with his dog, while Tayler-Morrison was arrested at the hospital.
Ms Bickerstaff said the pair gave conflicting evidence about how Noah sustained his injuries.
In a police interview Hunjan said after Noah had been put to bed at 7pm they were smoking cannabis, drinking vodka and eating, checking on him as he was "annoying" and "whingeing", but later found him on the floor.
He told officers he tried to do CPR and took him to the shower to try to cool him down, putting ice on his forehead and head.
But prosecutors said this was all part of a desperate plan to cover up the couple's violent attack, and that claims he fell from his cot were a "lie".
Hunjan also told police he looked upon Noah as his own son, said he could not explain the injuries and denied trying to hide from officers, saying he was just "getting comfortable with his puppy as she was his world".
Tayler-Morrison also blamed her son's injuries on him climbing from his cot, and complained that he cried and whinged as if he "attention-seeks".
The pair were bailed to a Premier Inn in Luton, which police had bugged to record their conversations. But the pair vanished and fled to Scotland, which Ms Bickerstaff said was because they knew what the post-mortem examination would reveal.
Doctors found 15 separate fractures of Noah's bones, along with bruising over his entire body, the court heard.
He had severe head injuries, with the right side "noticeably deformed", as well as a badly displaced and fractured right elbow and fractured arms and legs.
Ms Bickerstaff told the court they were deliberate injuries, inflicted on him during the six weeks after moving to Luton, and were consistent with a "road traffic collision or a fall from greater than one storey".
Tayler-Morrison sobbed with her head in her hands when the court heard Noah would have been severely brain-damaged if he had survived.
Ms Bickerstaff told jurors: "The prosecution says that when you have heard all the evidence in this case that Noah's injuries were not caused by a fall out of his cot, you will be sure that Noah was seriously assaulted, including having his head forcibly smashed against a hard surface such as a wall or floor.
"Both of these defendants have covered this up."
The trial is expected to last for four weeks, with the first witnesses being called on Monday