Published: 00:00, 03 July 2003
| Updated: 13:03, 03 July 2003
A TEENAGE mother broke down in tears as she described how she found her 10-month-old baby covered in blood after a ferret attacked it.
The 19-year-old, who Canterbury Crown Court Judge Nigel Van Der Bijl ordered cannot be named to protect the child's identity, has been found not guilty of wilfully neglecting the baby.
Bites and scratches "too numerous to count" were found on the child's face and arms after the prolonged attack by the family pet at his home in Herne Bay.
Doctors found hundreds of puncture marks on the baby's cheeks and around both eyes, as well as on his hands and arms where he had tried to protect his face. Despite plastic surgery, some of the scars were likely to be permanent.
The mother denied the charges of wilfully neglecting the child in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health and told the jury that she loved her baby "to pieces".
She admitted that after he was taken into care, she had run away with him for a week until arrested by police and told the jury she wanted nothing more than to be reunited with her child.
Asked by defence counsel, Eleanor Laws, about her upbringing, the woman, now living in Blean, agreed it had been "chaotic".
The ferret had been a pet for five months. It had been brought to the flat by her partner and had the run of the house, except for the bedroom. On the night of the pet's attack, she put her baby in his cot and pulled the bedroom door tightly behind her.
The door did not have a lock, but it would require some effort to push it open
She had then let the ferret out of its cage and put its food in the kitchen.
Just before a pizza was delivered, the baby's whimpering changed to an "attention cry", she said. She ate a slice of pizza in the sitting room where music was playing.
When she heard the pitch of the child's cry change to a scream, she ran into the bedroom. There, she told the court, she found her baby covered in blood and the ferret by the cot but not in it.
In tears, she told the jury: "I should have gone there earlier. I should have prevented it in the first place. I should not have let the ferret in the house."
The pet had bitten her mother, as well as her partner, on quite a few occasions, but it had stopped biting two months before the attack.
She had never kept a ferret before and did not realise it was a hunting animal, she said.