Father knows truth about death of five-month-old son

Jailed: Lee Clark

Jailed: Lee Clark

First published in News
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter (South Durham)

IT was an average February morning when Lee Clark, who was enjoying some precious father-son time with his five-month-old baby, suddenly shook the infant.

No-one, perhaps not even the 28-year-old, will ever know why he did what he did to five-month-old Charlee (CORR) Cameron Clark.

But his actions during the one-and-a-half hours he was alone with his son will never be forgotten.

It was normal for Clark to look after his son in the morning and give him his first feed of the day.

This was a role he had relished since the birth as he was naturally keen to support his then-fiancé Natalie Holmes who had endured a difficult labour and took time to recover from it.

February 25, 2011, appeared no different to any other day in the previous five months and when Miss Holmes headed into Darlington to buy new clothes for Charlee's christening, which was planned for two days later, everything appeared to be fine.

Charlee, having had his first bottle of the day, was his "normal happy self" and playing with Clark on the living room rug at their home in Neville Close, Gainford, County Durham.

Miss Holmes had no reason to suspect anything would go wrong as she believed Clark was a good father who "absolutely adored" his son.

But while she was out, something happened which resulted in her healthy child becoming unresponsive and ended in the most heart-breaking way imaginable for the new mother.

Evidence given in court explained shaking a baby for between ten and 20 seconds was long enough to cause life-threatening injuries.

Whether or not what caused him to shake his son had been, as prosecutor Andrew Robertson QC suggested a "loss of temper", he quickly realised what he had done when the youngster was rushed to Darlington Memorial Hospital.

However, this was not before he had left Charlee with his mother Jeanette Palmer and went to meet Miss Holmes in Darlington.

He told her Charlee had refused his bottle and was making a "groaning" noise but said he believed it was down to him missing her.

It was only when they returned home that Miss Holmes discovered her son was seriously ill.

As doctors investigated the possibility of infected meningitis, Clark asked a nurse if Charlee's injuries could be caused by "shaking a baby".

He said he had been bouncing him on his knee that day and wondered if this had caused any harm but by this point his initial comment had already raised the alarm.

Nurse Carly Wilkinson recorded the conversation in the patient notes and informed consultant pediatrician Dr Malik Alam, who by this point was beginning to look at shaking as a possible cause.

It was then police and social services were alerted and following a lengthy investigation, a year later he was arrested and charged with the manslaughter of his son.

Mr Robertson said: "We, the Crown, don't for a moment think he intended to kill Charlee, nor do we suggest he intended to cause serious harm.

"Secondly, we have no doubt he blatantly regrets it but he can't bring himself to own up to it."

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