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Colby Lawton murder trial: Jury hears of the moment the first police officers at the scene realised they could be dealing with an horrific crime



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Jurors in a baby murder trial have heard of the moment police realised they could be dealing with an horrific crime.

Four-week-old Colby Lawton had suffered 50 broken bones including a skull fracture, the trial at Reading Crown Court has heard.

Today (Wednesday) the jury heard from officers who arrived at the scene in Ashridge Court in Newbury in the early hours of May 9 last year in response to a 999 call from Colby’s mother, Chantelle Stroud.

The trial, at Reading Crown Court, continues.
The trial, at Reading Crown Court, continues.

There, they found her and her partner James Lawton, and a baby in cardiac arrest.

Pc Lizzie McDowell told the court in a statement how everything changed when she noticed a fresh bloodstain on bed clothing.

She alerted a colleague and, between them, they concluded they may be dealing with a crime and should therefore secure the area.

The officer said: “I expressed my concerns (to a colleague) and discussed that the property needed to be treated as a (crime) scene.”

Mr Lawton, apparently noticing their suspicion, said: “I have anxiety - can you stop staring at me?”

Colby, in cardiac arrest, was rushed to the Royal Berkshire Hospital, and Ms Stroud asked for Mr Lawton to accompany her there.

The pair sat in silence during the journey, the court heard.

Meanwhile, after hospital staff battled in vain to revive the baby, they noticed blood on his face which had apparently “streamed out” of his nose, according to his mother.

That set in motion a series of examinations which revealed the horrific injuries, including smashed bones in Colby’s ribs and legs, the court was told.

Eloise Marshall QC, prosecuting, said the pair was then asked by a doctor whether they had dropped or shaken Colby, which they both denied.

The judge had warned jurors at the start of the trial on Monday (November 1) that they should prepare themselves for distressing testimony concerning the final moments of little Colby's life.

In the dock is Colby's father, James Lawton, and mother Chantelle Stroud, who shared a tumultuous relationship punctuated by extreme violence, it is alleged.

Mr Lawton, aged 28, latterly of Boreham Field in Warminster, Wiltshire, denies murder and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

Ms Stroud, aged 25, formerly of Ashridge Court in Newbury and who now lives in Newtown Road, Newbury, denies causing or allowing the death of a child.

Earlier in the week Ms Marshall had told the court that, in the early hours of May 9 last year, emergency services received a call from Ms Stroud to say that her baby son was not breathing.

Paramedics arrived at Ashridge Court, Newbury, within minutes and discovered that Colby's heart had stopped.

Significantly, said Ms Marshall, "by the time Colby arrived at hospital, the doctors believed he had been dead for about 90 minutes.

"If correct, that means that, at the time the call was made, Colby was already dead."

Ms Marshall said: "He said he had heard Colby grizzling in his cot and picked him up to give him his bottle. He said he noticed he looked pale and a little floppy and was struggling to breathe and so he had woken Chantelle, who was asleep.

"She was also spoken to and said she was in bed when Mr Lawton woke her up with what appeared to be Colby's lifeless body. Neither account gives an explanation for his sudden collapse and death."

Medical tests, however, revealed devastating multiple injuries, some recent – and some not.

The jury heard Colby had blood on his face and "at the very least, a fractured skull".

Further tests revealed around 50 bone fractures including multiple broken ribs and fractures to the legs plus damage to the spine and internal organs.

Ms Marshall said: "When I say fractures, some of them were full breaks, where the bones were completely broken apart. Others were crushed or cracked."

She added: "Medical experts believe the injuries were created on two different occasions – some in previous days and some in the moments leading up to Colby's death."

The skull fracture, in particular, was two days old and was caused by blunt impact trauma, such as a punch or a kick, the court heard.

The injuries to the spine and ribs were caused by severe compression.

Ms Marshall went on: "Various other injuries, both internal and external, were caused by gripping and shaking."

The most serious injuries had been caused in the minutes before Colby's heart stopped, the prosecution claim.

She said: "The crown say it was James Lawton who was responsible for the death of Colby and when he spoke to police at the hospital he was lying to them.

"It's the crown's case that Chantelle Stroud allowed Colby's death through neglect. We say she knew James Lawton posed a danger to Colby."

Jurors also heard of a catalogue of beatings allegedly meted out by Mr Lawton to Ms Stroud.

Mr Lawton repeatedly attacked Ms Stroud by slapping her, smashing a wine bottle into her face, headbutting her, punching her repeatedly in the head and hurling her downstairs, they were told.

On some occasions, the court heard, Ms Stroud would lie to social services to cover for him.

But on other occasions she would kick him out of the home.

This showed, suggested Ms Marshall, that Ms Stroud "was more than capable of kicking him out the door when his behaviour wasn't acceptable to her".

It is the prosecution's case that, while she sometimes made Mr Lawton leave when he attacked her, she did not act the same way to protect her baby from him.

The trial continues.



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