Mother murdered newborn baby girl by stuffing toilet paper in her mouth

Flats at Marshall Walk, where Claudia Martins is alleged to have killed her baby
Flats at Marshall Walk, where Claudia Martins is alleged to have killed her baby

A mother murdered her newborn baby girl by filling her mouth with toilet paper before hiding the body in a suitcase, a court heard.

Claudia Martins, 33, gave birth alone in the bath at her sister's flat in Knowle, Bristol, having allegedly kept the pregnancy a secret.

Paramedics went to the property after friends and family members found "a lot of blood" in the bath, and Martins was taken to hospital.

Bristol Crown Court heard Martins, a Portuguese national, repeatedly told medical staff she had not given birth or been pregnant.

Two days later, police were called to the flat and found the body of a newborn baby inside a small black suitcase.

Martins, described as having an extremely low IQ, was arrested and admitted that she had given birth, but said the baby was stillborn.

A post-mortem examination found a wad of toilet paper inside her mouth, which experts claim was "deliberately inserted".

Martins, who denies a single charge of murder on September 12 last year, wept during the opening of her trial at Bristol Crown Court.

Prosecuting, Adam Vaitilingam QC, said two police officers were called to the flat Martins shared with her sister, on September 15 last year.

"They were shown to the bathroom of the flat, where they saw and opened a suitcase," he said. "Inside, wrapped in towels and in a black plastic bag, they found the body of a newborn baby girl.

"The baby had been born three days earlier to the defendant, Claudia Martins.

"It is the prosecution's case that she killed the baby as soon as it was born and that she hid the body in the suitcase.

"It is the defence case that she never knew she was pregnant and when she gave birth it was stillborn and that she hid it in the suitcase out of a mixture of shock and panic."

The jury heard Martins is originally from Mozambique in Africa but moved to Portugal before settling in Bristol in 2011.

She lived in a two-bedroom flat with her sister, Vilma Marshall, Ms Marshall's partner, and five children, which was "difficult and pressurised", Mr Vaitilingam said.

In late 2013, Martins is believed to have become pregnant, with the father of the baby later identified by DNA analysis as Polish man Jacob Kucmus.

"The baby was full term when born on September 12 2014," Mr Vaitilingam said.

"We don't know when she first realised, because she never told anyone that she was pregnant nor - as far as we are able to say - consulted with a doctor."

Friends and family suspected that Martins was pregnant but she denied this and refused to go to a doctor, it is alleged.

Martins' sister, Vilma, was pregnant with a baby girl at the same time and gave birth a week before Martins did.

A naming ceremony was held at the flat on September 12 but Martins went upstairs to the bathroom at 7pm.

Friends at the party later went to check on Martins and found her bleeding, with "a lot of blood" in the bath, Mr Vaitilingam said.

They called an ambulance and paramedics arrived at 8.54 to find Martins in a sarong, with a "heavily bloodstained towel" between her legs.

The paramedics persuaded Martins to leave with them at 10.40pm and headed to the Bristol Royal Infirmary.

"Before she left, Claudia went to a suitcase that was in the far corner of the room and rummaged around in it," Mr Vaitilingam said.

"It looked to the paramedics as though she was rearranging items within the suitcase, and she then shut it and placed items on top of it before leaving with them for the hospital."

Martins saw a number of medical staff at the hospital but repeatedly denied she had been pregnant or had given birth, the jury heard.

During her hospital stay, Martins' sister noticed a smell coming from the suitcase and called police when she opened it and saw blood.

Dr Russell Delaney carried out a post-mortem examination and found the baby was normally formed, with no evidence of disease to account for death.

Due to the level of decomposition, medical experts are unable to determine whether the baby was born dead or alive.

But Dr Delaney found a wad of five pieces of wet tissue paper - the same as on a toilet roll in the bathroom - "deliberately inserted" into the baby's mouth.

"The prosecution's case is that Claudia Martins put this wad of tissue paper into the child's mouth after it had been born, intending to cause its death and achieving exactly that," Mr Vaitilingam said.

"She denies that, but has never offered any explanation as to how that object came to be placed in the baby's mouth."

The trial continues.