A desperate devoted young Blackburn mum whose actions nearly killed her seriously sick baby son walked free from court.
A merciful judge suspended a prison sentence on 23-year-old Salma Ilyas after describing it as “a unique case” involving exceptional circumstances.
“I accept your action arose because of a desperate cry for help. You were trying to cope with a situation most mothers would think unimaginable,” said Judge Mark Brown.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Ilyas married her husband in Pakistan in 2008 and then moved to join his extended family in Blackburn. They had a daughter in 2009 and then a son on January 29, 2011.
The couple had been warned he might have a congenital disorder but they declined a termination and shortly after his birth it was confirmed he has significant complex medical problems including Raine Syndrome, an inherited disorder involved increased bone density, a small head, bulging eyes, depression of the face and lung and brain problems. Normal life expectancy for children with this disorder is about four or five years.
He has had a tracheostomy since just after birth and been in and out of hospitals and Ilyas and a sister-in-law were trained in his care. When he was eight-months-old a shunt in his brain to treat hydrocephalus became infected and he was admitted to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool on September 26, 2011.
He had an operation and admitted to a high dependency unit, said Frances Hertzog, prosecuting.
On September 29 a nurse was giving another patient medication when she heard a monitor alarm indicating the boy’s sats were dropping and she ran over. She found Ilyas sitting by the cot with him “in a cradling position. She was crying and very distressed and said, ‘he’s nothing breathing’ but she was not doing anything to assist him.”
The nurse realised the tracheostomy was blocked and pressed the emergency buzzer and grabbed a suction catheter to clear what she assumed was a blockage of mucous but she saw something white in the tube.
She could not reach it and other “crash team” medics arrived, removed the tube and found the baby had no pulse. A doctor began CPR and he began to breathe.
Investigations revealed a piece of a dry wipe had been put in the tube and a doctor concluded that the obstruction was “a serious and life-threatening event” that was unlikely to have happened by accident. When interviewed by police Ilyas denied any knowledge about how it came to be there.
But on the day she was due to face trial accused of attempted murder she instead admitted child cruelty which was accepted by the prosecution.
Sentencing her to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years along with two years supervision Judge Brown said the baby was “a very sick child and I well understand the despair and anxiety you must have endured.
“This must have gone on since he was born and his condition must have been a tremendous ordeal for you and your family.
“I am sure words cannot adequately describe the feelings of anguish you must have suffered to see your son in that state where his quality of life was so very limited and it must have been particularly difficult as you had another child to look after as well,” he said.
He told Ilyas, who was helped by an Urdu interpreter, that what she had done was very dangerous and could have had a very tragic outcome.
But he said she loved the boy, now two, very much and was considered a loving, caring mother. At the time she had had very little sleep, constant headaches and she was exhausted.
“I accept your actions blocking the tube were not borne out of malice or through any lack of care but you felt desperate for him, believing there was little hope for the future. You believed you couldn’t cope any longer with the ongoing pressure and stress of his condition.
“What you did was a reaction to the dreadful situation you were in and not a planned and premeditated act to end your son’s life.”
Ben Morris, defending, said that Ilyas, of Copy Nook, Blackburn, who has no previous convictions, had not been coping emotionally but had not wanted anyone to know as she felt a “great sense of duty”.
She and her husband live with his very supportive family, who are caring for her children and she sees them every day under supervision.