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Futuristic 3D scans help WMP convict mum of baby’s ‘squeeze’ death

A mum has been convicted of squeezing her baby to death following a West Midlands Police investigation that saw detectives use futuristic 3D-scan technology to identify microscopic fractures to the tragic tot’s ribcage.

Abigail Palmer, from Redfern Close in Solihull, crushed two-month old Teri-Rae – causing a total of 10 rib fractures – in what police suspect was a violent response to her daughter’s cries for attention.

Initially the baby’s death wasn’t believed to be suspicious: there were no signs of injury and Palmer claimed she awoke on the settee alongside Teri-Rae on the afternoon of 2 January 2017 to find her “blue and lifeless”.

However, an investigation was launched days later when a skeletal survey revealed three healing rib fractures – and a later forensic post mortem confirmed the baby didn’t die suddenly but over a period of up to three hours when her brain was starved of oxygen.

West Midlands Police turned to micro-CT scanning experts at the University of Warwick in a bid to get a more detailed picture of the child’s injuries.

And the 3D images – 1,000s of times more enhanced than traditional hospital CT scans – revealed further tiny hairline fractures to the girl’s ribcage.

Medical experts concluded the injuries would have shallowed Teri-Rae’s breathing due to the pain and slowly she would have suffocated.

Jailed: Abigail Palmer killed her young baby by squeezing her and fracturing the tot's ribs
Jailed: Abigail Palmer killed her young baby by squeezing her and fracturing the tot's ribs

West Midlands Police charged Palmer with manslaughter – and at Birmingham Crown Court today (4 April) she was jailed for 13-and-a-half years having been found guilty by a jury.

West Midlands Police Sergeant Mick Byron from the Child Abuse Investigation Team, said: “We were able to show that Teri-Rae suffered 10 rib fractures over a four to 12 hour period between 3am and 11am on 2 January.

“Palmer had been at a pub for six hours on New Year’s Day but claimed to have drank mainly squash, not alcohol, as that would have breached a condition of the Child Protection Plan she was bound by.

“We don’t believe her… and neither did the jury. We suspect she came home drunk, was awoken by her baby in the night and inflicted these terrible images in response to Teri-Rae’s crying.

“Palmer admitted the baby was never out of her sight and never mishandled by anyone else; she offered no plausible accidental explanation for her daughter’s injuries. There was no indication Teri-Rai suffered a bone fragility condition and she was not independently mobile enough to have injured herself.

“Significant force is required to cause rib fractures in a baby… the presence of rib fractures in a baby of this age is indicative of abusive, deliberately inflicted, injury. This was a truly heart-breaking case to investigate, that a little baby’s life was taken by the one person who should have been protecting her.”

West Midlands Police has developed a pioneering partnership with the University of Warwick and its cutting-edge WMG research centre to create the micro-CT imaging process.

Such technology has been used for some time in industries like aerospace and automotive – where atomic material failures can have catastrophic consequences – but West Midlands Police was the first UK force to embrace the science to support investigations.

Professor Mark Williams from WMG at the University of Warwick added: “State-of-the-art 3D scanning technology allowed us to identify multiple fractures to Teri-Rae’s ribs that had occurred over an extended period of time.  

“The ability to produce highly detailed 3D images of these shocking injuries helped establish the truth and show what had happened. It’s an honour for us to provide critical evidence to this case, and to be able to help the police investigate such an appalling tragedy.”
 

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