Published: 12:28, 29 November 2019
| Updated: 16:57, 29 November 2019
A 21-year-old baby shaker killer began a life sentence today with the words of the child's heartbroken mother following him to his cell: "I hate you!"
Lee Vernon had been convicted of murdering his six-week-old baby boy, who died in hospital with 28 bone fractures in July last year after being rushed from his Broadstairs home.
McKenzie Ellis was rushed to King's College Hospital - where doctors discovered he had sustained 18 breaks to his ribs and 10 elsewhere along with a bleed to the brain.
The baby's mum - Vernon's partner - read from a prepared statement about the impact her baby's death has had on her.
Katrina Ellis , who had attended every day of the trial at Maidstone Crown Court, told Mr Justice Nicklin: "The day I gave birth to McKenzie was the best day of my life. In his short life he taught me what true love was. The first time I heard him cry, when he was born, it melted my heart.
"I am really angry that Lee lied to me and very suspicious about what he did tell me. I believed what he told me and really regret that I stayed with him.
"I hate him and what he has done to me and my family and McKenzie."
As Vernon sat unmoved in the dock, she continued: "I feel broken that he's died... the loss of McKenzie has devastated me.
"I feel so much hate for Lee now and I just want him never to come out of prison for what he has done."
The judge ruled that Vernon will have to serve at least 16 years before he can apply to be released but he may still be locked up for the rest of his life.
Prosecutors had revealed how he had caused the fatal head injury by shaking the baby boy.
He had denied murder and two charges of inflicting GBH with intent. But the jury rejected his account and convicted him of all three charges.
Prosecutor Steven Perian QC told how Vernon had "intentionally inflicted non-accidental injuries on his son", resulting in a fractured skull and the bleed on the brain.
McKenzie was taken to the QEQM Hospital on July 23 after collapsing at his home in Linley Road, Broadstairs.
He was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London but never recovered and died three days later, aged just 47 days old.
The UK's only forensic bone expert, Professor David Mangham, says he believes they were caused deliberately.
Reacting to the jury's verdict, an NSPCC spokesman said: "His was a horrific and senseless murder of an innocent baby at the hands of a man who should have been nurturing and protecting him.
"We all have a responsibility to look out for the welfare of children and it is vital that anyone concerned about a child speaks out.
"You can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email email@example.com"
Vernon, 21, was found guilty of murder and two counts of grievous bodily harm, following a trial at Maidstone Crown Court last month.
He was sentenced at the same court today.
McKenzie was taken to King's College Hospital after being rushed to the QEQM in Margate on July 23 last year after Vernon called emergency services to report his son was unconscious and he had no idea why.
When asked if the child had hurt himself in any way he replied "no, not really".
Medical crews found McKenzie had suffered trauma to his head and he died at a specialist trauma unit three days later.
In police interview Vernon said his son had accidentally fallen from his grip, causing the child to hit himself on the arm of a sofa before falling to the floor.
Vernon denied murder and two charges of inflicting GBH with intent, but the jury rejected his account and convicted him of all three charges.
Detective chief inspector Richard Vickery, Kent Police’s investigating officer for this case, says it is impossible to comprehend the unnecessary suffering McKenzie endured during his short life.
"I am pleased Vernon has received a substantial sentence that means he is not able to harm another child," he said.
"This was a complex and deeply emotional case and I am grateful to the medical experts, and my investigation team, who worked tirelessly to pursue justice for McKenzie."
An NSPCC spokesman, commenting after sentencing, says a parent’s priority should be protecting their baby from harm, but instead Vernon subjected his son to a horrific attack that tragically ended his short life.
"His actions will have a devastating impact on a family robbed of the chance of watching McKenzie grow up."
More by this authorPaul Hooper
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