Grandmother, 53, denies killing her 11-month-old granddaughter who drowned

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A grandmother had denied killing her 11-month-old granddaughter who drowned in the bath after being left unsupervised for two minutes, a jury has been told. 

Shirley Grenfell, 53, has gone on trial for manslaughter at Truro Crown Court, Cornwall, following the death of the toddler.

Chanelle Grenfell had been having a bath along with her older sister, who was then two and a half years old, on Boxing Day in 2017. 

In a 999 call the girls’ grandmother said: ‘Both of my granddaughters were in having a bath. I was in the bedroom just getting dressed because I had just had a bath.

‘I did not realise the 11-month-old was under the water.’

Grenfell, of Illogan, Cornwall, denies manslaughter by gross negligence and a second alternative count of cruelty to a child under 16.

Shirley Grenfell, 53, has gone on trial for manslaughter at Truro Crown Court (pictured), Cornwall, following the death of her 11-month-old granddaughter

Shirley Grenfell, 53, has gone on trial for manslaughter at Truro Crown Court (pictured), Cornwall, following the death of her 11-month-old granddaughter

Prosecutor Miss Jo Martin QC told the jury that the NHS advise is that babies and toddlers should be put into a bath filled with no more than two inches of water and that they should ‘not be left alone for a moment’.

She said the bath at Grenfell’s house had 14 cm of water in it at the time. 

Miss Martin said that babies sitting in a bath can topple over and cannot right themselves and that can lead to them drowning.

The girls had stayed over on Christmas Day night at their grandmother’s home because the little girls’ parents had to go to the local hospital where their two-month -old son was in intensive care after being born premature.

The prosecutor said: ‘She left them in the bath unattended, unsupervised for some time, at least two minutes, possibly more, while she went into her bedroom.

‘While absent Chanelle drowned. Shirley Grenfell never meant for Chanelle to die but she had a duty of care and failed in that duty.’ 

Grenfell told police that she had emptied some of the water after her own bath before she put the two sisters in the bath to wash their hair.

She said she put Chanelle at the tap end of the bath and the water was ‘up to their bellies’ with some plastic toys for them to play with.

Grenfell told police that she had emptied some of the water after her own bath before she put the two sisters in the bath to wash their hair (stock image)

Grenfell told police that she had emptied some of the water after her own bath before she put the two sisters in the bath to wash their hair (stock image)

Grenfell told police that she went into her bedroom and put on her dressing gown before she heard the two and a half year old shout ‘nanny’.

She went into the bathroom and said Chanelle was ‘under the water on her back’ and believed she was completely submerged.

She said she had bathed the girls before and on this occasion she was out of the bathroom for ‘two to three minutes’.

She made a distraught call to 999 and told the call handler what had happened.

She said Chanelle was ‘lifeless’ and one of Grenfell’s sons was giving her mouth to mouth resuscitation.

The baby was rushed to Treliske Hospital in Truro but was declared dead the next day. A post mortem concluded she died from drowning.

The jury was told that a pathologist noted that she inhaled water and that a seated baby in a bath would be unable to right herself once she toppled over in the bath.

Miss Martin told the court: ‘What happened on Boxing Day was clearly a tragedy and people clearly make mistakes.’

She said the law requires people who have a duty of care not to neglect that duty.

Miss Martin said: ‘Leaving an 11-month-old baby in a bath unsupervised gives rise to a serious and obvious risk of death.

‘She was being negligent, not just negligent, but grossly negligent,’ she said.

Mr Simon Laws, QC, defending, told the jury: ‘Sadly tragedies and accidents happen.

‘Very often someone is to blame. What happened was the last thing that anyone would possibly have wished, a very young child having lost her life in a way that was both tragic and completely unintended.

‘The Crown Prosecution Service has decided the right response to that tragedy is to charge Shirley Grenfell with two criminal offences.

‘She was not taking a risk, she was making a mistake.She is not blameless her, far from it, but we are saying she is not guilty of these two offences.’

Grenfell, who is a mother-of-four and has 12 grandchildren, denies the charges and her trial continues.

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