Toddler unable to get into tumble dryer on her own, trial told

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Thomas Dunn is on trial at Dundee Sheriff Court (David Cheskin/PA)

A 13-month-old girl who was allegedly put in an activated tumble dryer would not have been able to climb into the machine by herself, a court has been told.

The child’s mother said the toddler was not strong enough to be able to do so at the time.

The witness also told jurors she would not make false accusations and said she was seeking “closure” for her child.

Thomas Dunn, 25, is on trial accused of endangering the toddler’s life by putting her in the machine at his flat in Arbroath, Angus, and switching it on at a point around the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018.

The child’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, earlier told a jury at Dundee Sheriff Court that she turned around from washing dishes at her friend’s home to see her girl in the tumble dryer.

During the second day of the trial on Tuesday, prosecutor Nicola Gillespie asked the witness: “Would (the girl) have been able at that stage… to climb in there (the dryer) on her own if the door was open?”

The woman replied: “No, she wasn’t strong enough on her legs at that point.”

Earlier, she told the trial how she heard two thuds which drew her attention.

“I just instantly thought that she’d been put in it (the dryer) because of how loud it was,” she said.

The witness described hearing screaming while the child was still in the machine and agreed that Dunn had initially refused to hand the girl over after switching the machine off.

Asked about Dunn’s demeanour, the woman replied: “There was just no emotion. I felt like he felt like it was a joke.

“But I didn’t and I was really angry with it.”

The witness said it took five to 10 minutes for the girl to calm down after the event and described how the youngster was screaming and trying to get away from the accused, who was holding her.

The woman also spoke of an incident around the same time of year when she said she saw Dunn moving to put his hand over the child’s mouth and nose.

The court heard she told police in a statement: “Out of nowhere, Tom said if kids find it hard to sleep you suffocate them by putting your hand over their mouth and nose for a number of seconds until they go drowsy.”

It added: “I was shocked. It came from nowhere, I just thought it was an odd thing to say.”

Defence advocate Niall McCluskey put it to the witness that the incidents could not have been so serious since she had left her child in Dunn’s care following the tumble dryer incident.

She said she disagreed and told the court: “I wouldn’t accuse someone or make an accusation like that…

“It’s for my child so she can get closure as well.

“I wouldn’t falsely accuse someone of doing that, I’m not like that. I know I did make a mistake going back.”

Dunn, of Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, denies three charges of assaulting the child between December 2017 and January 2018.

Dunn also denies assaulting a young boy on various occasions between April 2015 and January 2018 by placing a hand over his mouth and pinching his nose, restricting his breathing.

In one of the assault charges, Dunn is accused of repeatedly striking the girl on the head and body, hitting her against an unknown object or objects and biting her on the arm to the danger of her life on January 8 2018.

Consultant radiologist Sanjay Pillai, 51, told the court he analysed scans of the girl taken at Ninewells Hospital the following day.

He said the girl was found to have fractures to two areas of her skull – a depressed fracture at the back of her head and “multiple” fractures linked to each other on the right side of her head.

Doctors concluded there was a “high degree of suspicion” that the injuries were “non-accidental”, jurors heard.

Mr McCluskey asked whether it was possible the injuries could have been caused accidentally, to which the witness replied: “Yes.”

A friend of the girl’s mother later told the court the girl looked “really white” and was not her usual self in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

She said of the accused: “He said that she’d (the child) bumped her head on the pram.”

The case, before Sheriff Alastair Brown, continues on Wednesday.

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