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City worker and handyman found guilty over death of four-week-old baby daughter

A couple have been convicted in connection with the death of their four-week-old daughter.

Management consultant Clare Sanders, 44, and handyman Tomas Vaitkevicius, 45, were accused of murdering Eva Sanders after the baby died in September 2017.

Eva suffered 27 rib factures as well as injuries to her head and spine from three separate assaults, jurors heard during a retrial.

Sanders and Vaitkevicius, of Mitchum, southwest London, were cleared of murder but found guilty of causing or allowing the death of their child.

City worker Sanders sobbed loudly in the dock as the jury delivered its guilty verdicts, by a majority of 11 to one.

The retrial at the Old Bailey had been called after the case was disrupted during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

In court, prosecutor Tom Little QC told jurors that Eva was “violently shaken” on at least three occasions days apart prior to her death.

Jurors heard that on 27 August, less than a week before she died, Sanders had made internet searches on her mobile for “shaken baby syndrome NHS”, “shaking babies” and “baby is shaking”.

Sanders later told police that Eva’s arms and legs had been shaking but she could not provide an explanation for it.

In the hours before her death, Vaitkevicius told the court he had been watching television when Sanders went to check on Eva and within seconds heard her shouting.

He added he ran into the bedroom to see what was wrong and saw Sanders holding the youngster by her armpits, who was “limp” in movement.

The couple’s neighbour woke up early on 1 September to hear Sanders screaming and ringing the doorbell at her home in Mitcham, south London. She rang 999 and Eva was taken to St George’s Hospital in nearby Tooting, where she was pronounced dead on the evening of 2 September.

Both defendants, who were said to have a “toxic” relationship, denied causing Eva’s injuries or noticing any signs of mistreatment.

Mr Little said: “This was, we say, a brutal series of assaults. A defenceless baby was not able to talk, not able to say what happened, not able to defend herself.

“It can be difficult for the mother and it can be difficult for the father. But what you do not do when they cry or will not feed properly is to assault them. What you do not do is shake them violently. What you do not do is break their ribs.

“A baby caused such injuries and pain may well keep on crying and will not stop crying.”

Giving evidence in her retrial, Sanders insisted that Eva was a quiet baby.

She told the court: “Eva wasn’t difficult. I was under stress and pressure but it did not impact on my care of Eva.”

Sanders said she had no inkling that Eva was hurt, adding: “She never changed in presentation from birth. She was always a quiet baby. I often had to wake her up.”

Vaitkevicius also denied violently attacking their daughter.

During their turbulent relationship, she once punched him in the stomach but he was never violent towards her, he said.

They will be sentenced on 27 November.

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