Baby who died in the care of mother’s partner was found with unexplained bruising weeks before

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A seven-month old baby who died in the care of her mother’s partner was found with unexplained bruising on her body in a northern NSW home, an inquest has heard.

The mother of baby AH, both whom cannot be named for legal reasons, left her baby with her partner in a Grafton home just before lunch on December 4, 2015.

The moments leading up to the child’s death have been inconsistently detailed in two police interviews by the partner, who also cannot be named, and contradict the mother’s account.

The couple had been taking ice and cannabis in the weeks before the tragedy, while the woman had been homeless for some time and sleeping in her car.

Whether Family and Community Service case workers should have stepped in earlier to prevent the ‘tragic and untimely death’ of the baby, is also being investigated, counsel assisting the coroner Stephen Kelly said.

An inquest into the death of a seven-month old baby while in the care of her mother's partner in NSW has heard the infant was found with unexplained bruising on her body (stock picture)

An inquest into the death of a seven-month old baby while in the care of her mother’s partner in NSW has heard the infant was found with unexplained bruising on her body (stock picture)

The mother says she left her ‘laughing’ and ‘bubbly’ baby in a walker with formula in a bottle close by.

While she was waiting at her father’s house she says she heard her baby’s voice giggling in the background during a phone call with her partner.

After returning home she says she saw her baby’s hand move while she was asleep upstairs.

Her partner says she went into the bathroom to chop up cannabis.

About 10 minutes later the mother returned upstairs to see her baby with froth coming out of her nose and started screaming that she wasn’t breathing.

‘I knew she was gone already,’ she later told police.

Her partner performed CPR on the child and emergency services were called soon after.

They found the baby was cold to touch, had a blue head and mottling on the sides of her body.

The inquest heard the mother and her partner had been taking ice and cannabis in the weeks before the tragic death (stock image)

The inquest heard the mother and her partner had been taking ice and cannabis in the weeks before the tragic death (stock image)

A post-mortem couldn't determine the cause of death, but one expert said one of two haemorrhages found in the baby girl required a 'significant amount of force to occur' (stock image)

A post-mortem couldn’t determine the cause of death, but one expert said one of two haemorrhages found in the baby girl required a ‘significant amount of force to occur’ (stock image)

Over two police interviews her partner gave inconsistent accounts of what happened, originally stating ‘I gave her a bottle, she drank a little bit … and I came back 20 minutes later’.

But no food or liquids were found in her body.

In his first police interview the partner said he was washing the dishes while the baby slept, but in his second interview he was downstairs cleaning the fish tank.

He also said he retrieved the baby from her mother’s car before she left, and that he was feeling emotionally fine, failing to disclose a heated text message he recently had regarding outstanding drug money owed.

A post-mortem could not ascertain the cause of death, but one expert later said one of two haemorrhages detected required a ‘significant amount of force to occur’.

She suspected ‘vigorous shaking’ may have caused the head to whiplash and contributed to her death.

The inquest continues before NSW Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott.

The inquest into the seven-month-old girl's death continues before NSW Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott (NSW Coroner's Court pictured)

The inquest into the seven-month-old girl’s death continues before NSW Deputy State Coroner Elaine Truscott (NSW Coroner’s Court pictured)

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