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Dad killed one-month-old son by shaking him when he would not stop crying

A father who admitted killing his baby son by ‘forcefully’ shaking him when he would not stop crying has been jailed for three years.

Matthew Banks, 34, inflicted ‘catastrophic’ brain injuries on one-month-old son Leo after losing his temper while trying to feed him back in December 2017.

It wasn’t until the morning, when Leo’s mother, Hannah Hawdon, woke up and realised her son was seriously unwell, that medical help was sought.

He was taken to hospital where tests and an MRI scan found he had suffered a ‘large volume subdural haemorrhage and a brain laceration’.

Leo was stabilised and later released from hospital into the care of his family while continuing to receive specialist treatment for the head injury and related serious illness until his death in February 2020.

Jennifer Knight KC, prosecuting, said that about four weeks after the fatal incident, Banks admitted to Ms Hawdon that he had shaken the baby before making further admissions to other relatives and a social worker.

‘The constellation of injuries could only be explained by a traumatic episode that occurred at the time of his collapse,’ she added.

Banks had said that ‘he may have shaken Leo while winding him, he was crying so much that he wasn’t breathing properly, and he had shaken him to shock him into breathing’, she said.

The barrister added that he said ‘it was an accident and he did it out of frustration and tiredness’.

Sentencing the 34-year-old, the judge, Ms Justice Cutts, said: ‘This is a tragic case. This case is aggravated by the vulnerability of Leo because of his young age.’

In a victim impact statement read to court, Ms Hawdon said that until Banks admitted causing the fatal injury she had lived under the suspicion that she had harmed Leo which made her ‘feel sick to the stomach’.

She added: ‘I will never get over losing my child, no mother should go through what I have gone through. My life was turned upside down by this.

‘I will never forgive Matthew for what he has done to Leo.’

Rebecca Upton, defending Banks, said: ‘He was described as being a loving and caring father and a very supportive partner and who was providing, along with Miss Hawdon, a good home to Leo.’

She added that he was remorseful and wished to say to his previous partner and family that ‘he has betrayed them and he will never forgive himself. He never meant to hurt Leo and understands he will not be forgiven.’

Detective Constable Owen Watkins, of Sussex Police, said: ‘This is a heart-breaking case that has resulted in the tragic and untimely death of an innocent two-year-old boy.

‘Matthew Banks was one of the people trusted to look after and care for Leo, but instead his actions caused injuries that Leo was sadly unable to recover from.’

‘We are relieved to secure a guilty plea at court, as it means Leo’s family no longer face the additional trauma of reliving his death through a trial. Our thoughts continue to be with them all at this incredibly difficult time.’

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