Chloe Murphy, who died from a fractured skull
A babysitter has been found not guilty of killing 10-month-old Chloe Murphy after the baby had been left in her care.
A Supreme Court jury acquitted mother-of-two Ketapat Jenkins, 30, of one charge of child homicide, which is effectively manslaughter, after three days of deliberations.
Ms Jenkins broke down in tears in the dock after the verdict was handed down at 2.40pm.
Ketapat Jenkins Photo: Wayne Taylor
Chloe’s parents, Tony and Phurithee, sat motionless in court holding hands and bowed their heads when the not guilty verdict was read out.
Justice Lex Lasry thanked the jury members for their efforts, saying the case had been a difficult one and they had had to make a difficult decision when dealing with difficult issues.
Ms Jenkins had been accused of attacking Chloe at her Kensington townhouse after she had been dropped off by her parents before they went out to dinner and a movie.
When the couple returned to pick up their daughter about 11pm on December 3, 2010, she was completely limp and fighting for every breath.
Chloe was rushed to the Royal Children's Hospital and found to have suffered a fractured skull and three fractures to her left arm. She died two days later.
Ms Jenkins, 30, nicknamed Gift, went on trial last month after pleading not guilty to one count of child homicide, which is effectively manslaughter.
When questioned by police, Ms Jenkins denied having shaken or dropped Chloe while looking after the baby and suggested Chloe's parents may have been to blame.
Ms Jenkins told police it was not possible she had dropped Chloe because she loved the girl "maybe more than my own children". She said she would have loved to have had a daughter.
The Crown case was a circumstantial one where they claimed Chloe died because of the babysitter’s unlawful and dangerous conduct.
But the defence said there was no credible evidence that Ms Jenkins had caused Chloe's injuries and she had most likely suffered a fall.
Defence barrister Peter Morrissey, SC, told the jury Ms Jenkins had been dedicated to being a good mum and was a good person who was not violent.
"And that non-violence is something we really rely on heavily because it's a big ask to say that she, with no motive, no reason whatsoever, would assault this ten-month-old child who she had a high regard for and evidently liked," Mr Morrissey said. "The fact is here that she's just not a candidate to attack a kid."
The first jury in Ms Jenkins' trial had to be discharged after Crown prosecutor Bruce Walmsley, SC, said during his opening address that the babysitter's demeanour during the police interview was "most unusual".
Mr Walmsley said Ms Jenkins was not distressed, frightened or preoccupied in any way and laughed at seemingly inappropriate times when describing how the tragic events unfolded.
The prosecutor said Ms Jenkins' behaviour did not sit comfortably with what you would expect of an innocent person.
Mr Morrissey argued, in the absence of the jury, that the Crown had unfairly tried to paint Ms Jenkins as being weird.
"The jury might be inclined to reason, 'Well, we can't see a reason why an otherwise decent mother-of-two would attack a baby but she's weird'," he said.
Justice Lasry agreed to abort the trial on February 18 and a new jury was empanelled the next day.
During the second trial there was also no mention of the controversial issue of 'shaken baby syndrome', which had been raised during an earlier hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates Court in November 2012.
Royal Children's Hospital opthamologist Dr James Elder told a committal hearing for Ms Jenkins, that it was most likely Chloe had been extremely vigorously shaken and possibly dropped or thrown against something else with force to cause a skull fracture. He did not repeat this evidence during Ms Jenkins' Supreme Court trial.
Dr Elder told the committal hearing that he was aware a group of medical professionals believed "shaken baby syndrome" was false but he disagreed with them.
There was ample evidence to prove the condition did exist, he said.
But during his evidence to the Supreme Court, Dr Elder told the jury Chloe's injuries were most likely to have been caused when her head had been repeatedly "moved backwards and forwards".
Dr Elder said the severity of retinal hemorrhages suffered by the baby girl were "very seldom seen after falls or incidents in which the head, as a single thing, strikes something".
Questioned by Mr Morrissey, Dr Elder agreed there were a number of ways that Chloe's retinal hemorrhages could have been caused, including a child's forehead hitting the floor but he said this was "infrequent".
Dr Elder accepted that a fall down a staircase would not normally, as far as the medical literature was concerned, cause on its own the sort of injuries sustained to Chloe’s eyes but it was not impossible.