A FATHER appeared in court today accused of shaking to death his five-month-old baby son.

Former bar manager Lee Clark, 28, denies the manslaughter of his son Charlee Cameron Clark at their home in Neville Close, Gainford, County Durham.  

Charlee died on March 1, 2011, five days after falling ill and being taken to hospital.

He suffered severe bleeding and swelling to his brain, as well as bleeding behind his eyes.

Andrew Robertson QC, prosecuting, told a jury at Newcastle Crown Court that Charlee was a “happy and smiling” baby who had been left at home with Mr Clark on the day he fell ill.

The youngster's mother, Natalie Holmes, who was Mr Clark’s fiancé at the time, had left home on the morning of February 25 to buy clothes for her son’s christening, which was planned for two days later.

The court heard she missed the bus so returned home a short time later to waitfor her mother to give her a lift to Darlington. Charlee was said to be his usual self at this point.

When Mr Clark met her  later, having left Charlee in the care of his mother, he said their baby had refused his bottle and had been making a “groaning noise”.

Miss Holmes put this down to him missing her and it was only after returning home that she realised something was seriously wrong.

“He was making groaning noises and his eyes were rolling back in his head,” said a tearful Miss Holmes. “He was going stiff. He did not know who I was, he wasn’t responding to my voice. He was falling asleep and waking up and doing it again.”

Charlee was rushed to Darlington Memorial Hospital before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital (RVI), in Newcastle, for specialist treatment.

Mr Robertson told the court that while speaking to a doctor Mr Clark asked if the baby's injuries could have been caused by “bouncing him on his knee”.

However, the former bar manager was told the injuries were too severe for this to be the case.

In addition to his internal injuries, Charlee was found to have bruises on both knees, an injury Mr Robertson QC said are “highly suggestive of grip marks”.

The jury heard how Miss Holmes had endured a difficult birth and had to rely heavily on Mr Clark to look after Charlee in the early stages of his life.

Miss Holmes and a number of her relatives said Mr Clark, with whom she had lived with for about a year, was a good father who enjoyed playing with his son.

Despite causing doctors some concern in the first few minutes after being born, Charlee was known to be a “happy and well baby”.

He had not been involved in any accidents, although he did fall out of a baby bouncer about a month before his death but did not suffer any injuries from the incident.

“Charlee’s death was caused by deliberate shaking,” Mr Robertson QC told the jury. “The person responsible can still only be his own father.”

The trial continues.

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