UK couple cleared of son’s murder calls for probe

Apr 20, 2012, 5:00 PM

Associated Press

LONDON (AP) – A young British couple has been reunited with their infant daughter after a long legal battle that dragged on even after they were cleared of murdering their 4-month-old son.

Rohan Wray, 22, and Chana Al-Alas, 19, were charged with murder after their son Jayden suffered a fractured skull and died of brain damage in 2009.

The baby boy was diagnosed post-mortem with severe rickets, which causes bones to become soft and which some experts said was the cause behind Jayden’s fractures.

Jayden’s parents blame the hospitals that treated their son for failing to spot the rickets, but the hospitals say they worked very hard to save his life, and medical professionals continue to disagree over what caused the baby’s death.

A judge’s ruling in their favor at the High Court’s Family Division on Thursday allowed Al-Alas to be reunited with Jayda, the little girl she had been forced to relinquish to state custody immediately after giving birth in October 2010 amid the murder case.

The mother and daughter had remained apart, even after Al-Alas was cleared in the criminal case, because of a civil suit filed in family courts by the London Borough of Islington alleging that, despite having rickets, Jayden suffered fractures caused by “non-accidental injury” and “died as a result of inflicted trauma caused to him whilst in the care of the parents.”

The judge handling the civil suit found those allegations to be unproven in a ruling issued Thursday and made public Friday, leading baby Jayda to be returned to her parents.

A lawyer for Al-Alas said Friday it’s not yet clear if her client and Jayden’s father will sue the hospitals after going through a two-and-a-half year ordeal.

“It’s whether they want to go through another four years of litigation,” said Al-Alas’ lawyer, Ann Thompson. “They’ve got a little baby back at home with them and they’re really enjoying her. They just want to enjoy that.”

The initial decision to file criminal murder charges, even after the post-mortem identified rickets, showed that police were trying to force a theory of trauma when other explanations were apparent, according to Thompson.

Rickets causes problems in bone development and can result in soft or deformed bones, like bowed legs or a curved spine. It is most commonly caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D; in rare cases, it is the result of a genetic disorder.

Cases of the disease have been rising in the U.K. in recent years, and doctors have told parents to ensure their children get enough nutrients and sunlight. Children of Asian, African-Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent are at higher risk because their skin is often darker and they need more sunlight to get enough vitamin D.

At the six-week criminal trial, 60 medical professional and expert witnesses failed to agree on the cause of Jayden’s death. Al-Alas and Wray were ultimately cleared of the criminal charges.

The couple now accuse Great Ormond Street and University College Hospital of jumping to conclusions about child abuse without properly investigating, saying the hospitals should be investigated for failing to spot rickets.

But the hospitals _ expressing sympathy for the family _ have defended their treatment.

Great Ormond Street said in a statement that Jayden’s was a complicated case where the physical signs were much clearer post mortem.

The hospital said it “never took any position on whether any specific person caused these injuries” and that the “sad clinical outcome” for Jayden would not have been any different if rickets had been diagnosed.

University College Hospital said in a statement that its clinicians “acted with Jayden’s interests at heart.”


AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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UK couple cleared of son’s murder calls for probe