A judge has acquitted a Canberra chef of stuffing tissues down an 11-month-old baby's throat and rendering the crying infant unconscious in a fit of "anger and frustration".
Luke Paul Szabo celebrated the verdicts in the ACT Supreme Court on Friday morning with his family.
He has maintained his innocence throughout his judge-alone trial, which saw Justice Michael Elkaim take about three days to find him not guilty of choking or suffocating the infant, and inflicting on him grievous bodily harm.
Crown prosecutor Anthony Williamson previously told the court an "irritable" Mr Szabo had been babysitting the 11-month-old and other children on June 1 last year. He alleged the Canberra chef entered the crying infant's room and stuffed a wad of tissues down the baby's throat to quieten him.
Mr Williamson said the baby also had bruising and leg fractures after the incident, but barrister Margaret Jones said the former could be explained by Mr Szabo's albeit "enthusiastic" attempts to save the 11-month-old's life.
On the first day of the trial, a neighbour of the Canberra house where Mr Szabo had been babysitting said he had arrived there on June 1, 2019, to see the chef resuscitating the infant on the loungeroom floor.
"[The baby] was in a nappy. His eyes were bulging, his face was all discoloured," the neighbour said.
"I remember a straight line of vomit on the carpet and there was blood dripping down the side of his mouth."
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Justice Elkaim on Friday found the bruises on the baby's face could have been by explained by Mr Szabo administering CPR, as had been raised by expert defence witness Professor Johan Duflou.
He said it was possible the infant could have sustained the leg fractures before the incident. Also, the evidence could not exclude the possibility the baby had put the tissues in his own mouth.
"[The baby] was nicknamed the Cookie Monster because he would 'shove' things into his mouth," Justice Elkaim said.
Mr Williamson argued there had been no tissues in reach of the baby on June 1 last year, but Justice Elkaim found that possibility could not be excluded either. He said the tissues could have been left in the baby's cot or in his mother's nearby bed inadvertently.
One police officer who gave evidence in the trial noted a used condom had been found at the top of a bag in the house, and "tissues in the [baby's mother's] bed might be consistent with bodily fluids associated with the condom".
Justice Elkaim said: "[Prosecution witness Dr Catherine Samsum] correctly described the house as being in 'disarray' and noted, with appropriate disapproval, the presence of medication within reach of children.
"I do not accept that a deliberate 'policy', let alone a practice, was in place to ensure tissues were not kept in the bedroom or even kept away from the cot."
The infant's family members were clearly disappointed at the verdicts as Justice Elkaim handed them down on Friday.