Published: 14:30, 03 August 2017
A mum-of-nine and her boyfriend have been found guilty of causing the death of her baby boy from a 'catastrophic' brain injury.
As well as the head injury, five-month-old Eli Cox was found to have 28 fractures to bones in his body and had also been exposed to drugs at his home on the Isle of Sheppey.
Danny Shepherd, 25, and Katherine Cox, 33, now of Faversham, denied causing or allowing the death of a child between April 12 and 28 last year and causing or allowing physical harm to a child.
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They also denied possessing the Class B drug amphetamine on April 14.
This afternoon, the jury unanimously convicted them of all charges.
Cox looked strained while there was no reaction from Shepherd.
The court heard Cox has 12 previous convictions for 20 offences including assault causing actual bodily harm, burglary, handling stolen goods and shoplifting.
Shepherd was remanded in custody after his QC Nadine Radford asked for a psychiatric report - likely to take up to 12 weeks - to look at the issue of autism. She added that he had a low IQ.
The judge said the report should concentrate on "autism or any mental health issues which might be relevant to culpability".
Danny Moore, for Cox, asked to address the judge Mr Justice Stuart-Smith in private about her bail situation.
Discharging the jury of nine men and three women, the judge said he had the impression they had applied their minds to the case "right from the start and worked together to the very end".
He added: "I think I said this is one of the most important decisions you will ever have to take."
The judge told jurors: "The reason I have ordered a psychiatric report is matters have been raised in your absence about the possibility mental health issues might affect the level of his culpability.
"My next job is to sentence. I need to be sure I am sentencing on the best information."
The maximum sentence Cox and Shepherd could face is 14 years.
Jurors were excused from service for the next five years.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Eli suffered the fatal injuries at his home in Lapwing Close, Minster.
A medical expert said the 28 fractures of varying ages to 19 bones were consistent with being “twisted, pulled, crushed and bent in half’”.
After the verdicts were reached, senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Ivan Beasley said: "The death of a child is never anything less than tragic but the circumstances behind Eli Cox’s passing are especially upsetting for those of us who share a compassion for others.
"None of us will ever understand what compels people to cause harm to children, and it is unfortunately true to say that Eli suffered more than most and was robbed of his life before it had barely begun.
"Katherine Cox and Danny Shepherd maintained their innocence throughout but the jury saw through their lies.
"Only they know the true extent of the abuse Eli was put through, which is simply unthinkable to most members of society including parents who would do anything to protect their children from harm."
Libby Clark from the Crown Prosecution Service added: "This has been a difficult case to prosecute due to the complex medical evidence and challenges in establishing the involvement of either or both of the defendants in relation to the fatal injury caused to Eli.
"When the trial started, our case was that either Danny Shepherd or Katherine Cox had caused Eli’s injuries and the death, or were aware that there was a significant risk of serious physical harm being caused to him, and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent this.
"During the course of the trial and in light of the evidence given, it became possible to say that Danny Shepherd was the perpetrator of the injuries to Eli, including the assault which led to his death.
"The fatal injury and older fractures identified by one of the medical experts showed very significant similarities. This considerably undermined the defence case that they were caused by another person."
During the trial, prosecutor Jennifer Knight said Eli suffered extensive brain damage consistent with shaking and caused by a prolonged period of insufficient oxygen to the brain.
It was suggested the injuries were inflicted on many different occasions leading up to the child’s collapse on Wednesday, April 13 last year. He died two weeks later.
Shepherd, known as Pickle, and Cox were the only adults in the four bedroom house at the time of the collapse.
“It was the actions of one of them that resulted in the catastrophic brain injury that Eli Cox suffered that day,” Miss Knight told the jury of nine men and three women.
“The events of that day were clearly the unhappy culmination of injuries Eli Cox suffered on many occasions, also inflicted by Danny Shepherd and Katharine Cox.
“Both were aware in the weeks leading up to April 13 and on the day of his death that Eli Cox was at serious risk of physical harm.
"During the course of the trial and in light of the evidence given, it became possible to say that Danny Shepherd was the perpetrator of the injuries to Eli, including the assault which led to his death" - Libby Clark, CPS
“They were aware of it because one was the perpetrator and the other knew that perpetrator presented a risk to Eli.”
Miss Knight said Shepherd, who was not the child’s father, had a stick he labelled “Pickle’s beating stick.” He claimed he had it to control their dogs.
After Eli was taken to hospital a Vanish tub in the garden shed was found to contain five small bags of amphetamine. Samples from Eli’s hair showed he had been exposed to the drug, as well as cocaine.
Both Cox and Shepherd denied taking amphetamine. Cox admitted she used cannabis.
A pathologist found the fractures were caused on five different occasions, some of which were almost exclusively non-accidental. Nine were at the back of his rib cage.
The oldest fractures were up to 10 weeks before death.
Miss Knight said Cox had separated from Eli’s father by the time of his birth on November 27 2015. She started a relationship with Shepherd in the summer of that year and he moved into the four-bedroom house in November.
After being alerted by Shepherd that Eli had turned blue, Cox called for an ambulance saying the baby was not breathing.
Shepherd performed “adult” chest compressions using both hands.
Cox asked: “Pickle, what have you done?” Shepherd had said: “I will get the blame for this. They will blame me.”
Once in the ambulance, Eli was ventilated and CPR continued. He was still not breathing on his own on arrival at Medway Hospital.
Eli was transferred to London’s King’s College Hospital. A further scan showed there was extensive brain damage. He remained on a ventilator.
“It was apparent Eli would never recover,” said Miss Knight. “Life support was withdrawn and Eli died on April 27.”
Shepherd maintained in evidence that he had never harmed the baby in any way. Cox did not give evidence but had claimed in police interviews she was not aware of Eli being injured.
After the hearing, an NSPCC spokesman said: "This is a deeply shocking case in which a defenceless baby died at the hands of two people who should have been nurturing and protecting him. Instead, they robbed Eli of the chance of a happy and long life.
"Babies and young children are completely dependent on those who care for them and we all have a duty to look out for their welfare. It’s entirely right that they have faced justice for their actions.
"Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, while young people can call Childline on 0800 1111."