Daily Mail: A mother-of-five avoided jail for suffocating her newborn baby daughter by stuffing toilet paper down her throat and hiding the infant’s body in a suitcase. Claudia Martins, 33, wept as she walked free after a judge accepted she had a ‘momentary abnormality of mental functioning’ which she no longer suffered from.
A court heard she was suffering from a condition known as a ‘pathological denial of pregnancy‘ which continued after giving birth to a baby girl. Until that point she had managed to keep her pregnancy secret from her family and gave birth to the child in the bath before killing her.
She ‘intended’ to dispose of the tragic baby’s body unnoticed, wrapping it in a plastic bag and towels, but was prevented from doing so when paramedics arrived and whisked her off to hospital.
Earlier that evening she had complained to her family of a bad back but an ambulance was called when it was noticed she had wrapped herself in blood-soaked towels. Before she left her sister’s home in Knowle, Bristol, on September 12 last year, she was seen rearranging items in a suitcase and placed items on top.
Three days later, her sister, Vilma, complained of a smell coming from Martins’ bedroom and traced it to the suitcase, Bristol Crown Court heard. When she opened it she found towels soaked in blood and the body of a baby girl, which was between 35 and 36 weeks gestation.
Baby at 36 week development
Martins was cleared of murder but convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Mr. Justice Teare, sentencing Martins at Winchester Crown Court, Hampshire, to a two year community order with supervision requirements, described her actions as ‘wholly out of character’. He said: ‘On September 12 last year you gave birth to a baby girl and very shortly afterwards you killed that baby by inserting tissue paper in her mouth. Immediately thereafter you hid the baby in a suitcase and it was not discovered for three days. The explanation for your conduct is you were suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning which substantially impaired your judgement. This arose from a medical condition known as a pathological denial of pregnancy which continued despite the obvious presence of a baby.”
‘The giving of birth didn’t bring the denial to an end and you continued to deny the pregnancy to your family, friends and medical personnel. It was a great shock to you and induced in you a state of panic. Your actions of killing the baby were a manifestation of your irrational condition and your actions were wholly out of character.’
He added that her friends provided glowing references of her childcare qualities which were in ‘stark contrast’ to her actions on September 12 last year.
He continued: ‘Quite why you developed a pathological denial of pregnancy is unclear but it’s likely to be you living with the pressures of living with two children in cramped conditions without a partner in a foreign country and unable to speak English without any prospect of a job.’
No job but money to change up her hair…
The family of Martins, who is originally from Mozambique but a Portuguese national, will arrange accommodation for her supervision, the court heard. The conditions of the order mean she must report to her probation officer on a regular basis to help her rehabilitation into society.
Ms. Martin might need a new wig to help her “rehabilitate into society”…
When she killed her baby daughter she was living at the shared property in Knowle with eight other people including her sister. However, she can no longer live with her sister because social services will take her four children away into care if they live under the same roof.
During the trial Adam Vaitilingam QC, prosecuting, told how Martins concealed her pregnancy from her friends and family and denied giving birth altogether, saying she simply had a period. He said: ‘She placed the body of the baby in a suitcase, hidden from anyone. No doubt, we suggest she intended to dispose of it but was prevented from doing so by the arrival of the paramedics, who took her off to hospital.’
Following the discovery of the baby’s body police were called and officers arrested Martins on September 15, the day after she was discharged from hospital. In police interviews on September 17 she claimed she was in the bath because her back and legs hurt when the baby suddenly came out. She said she caught the baby but it wasn’t crying or moving.
However, Dr. Russell Delaney carried out a post mortem examination on September 17 and could not find any evidence that the baby was stillborn. He added he believed that the wad of tissue paper, made up of around five pieces, was deliberately inserted, a court heard.
Mr. Vaitilingam added: ‘It is also Dr. Delaney’s view that the obstruction of the baby’s airways by this object would have caused its death if the baby had been born alive.’
In mitigation, Christopher Quinlan QC said: ‘Here we have a vulnerable defendant being held in custody and in my respectful submission she should not be there. Given the circumstances of this case and the jury’s finding the court could impose a sentence that results in her immediate release.’
Martins has already served eight months in custody following her arrest in September last year which Mr. Justice Teare took into account when sentencing.
Speaking after the verdict, Senior Investigating Officer Det Insp Neil Meade said: ‘The death of a baby is always a tragedy but the unique circumstances make this a particularly emotive case for everyone involved. Our thoughts are very much with the victim’s wider family as they are struggling to comprehend how and why this tragedy happened.’