Woman claims she lost baby due to assault
The mother of a baby boy who died after being born prematurely accused his father of assaulting her like “an animal” and causing her waters to break.
At the Dublin Coroner’s Court, Gillian Mills claimed that her ex-partner Darren Byrne deliberately sat on her back when she was 21 weeks’ pregnant, causing the membrane of the amniotic sac protecting the foetus to rupture prematurely.
Mr Byrne strenuously denied the allegation.
They were giving evidence at the inquest into the death of baby Darren Mills, from Fettercairn in Tallaght, Dublin, who died just hours after being born at the Coombe hospital on December 4th, 2008. The postmortem found he died as a result of hypoxic brain injury – caused by a lack of oxygen passing through the placenta – and pneumonia due to an infection that came about as a result of the premature rupture.
Giving evidence, Ms Mills alleged that three days before she presented at the Coombe on October 30th, 2008, Mr Byrne assaulted her when she asked him to stop taking heroin.
He pushed her “against the wall by the head of the hair”, she said, before pressing her face against the sofa. He then sat on her on her back “like I was an animal” until she fell to her knees, she said. Mr Byrne was “frothing at the mouth”, she added, and when she was on her knees he spat in her face.
Ms Mills went to hospital three days later when she realised that her “waters” were leaking.
There was a heated exchange in court as Ms Mills spoke, with Mr Byrne storming out of the inquest while shouting “f***er”. He returned to deny under oath that any assault had taken place.
“Lies. There is no truth in it. I never sat on her,” he said.
Consultant obstetrician Dr Hugh O’Connor said pregnancies could continue for a number of weeks after rupture but the baby was left open to infection. Ms Mills gave birth on December 4th; however, Darren survived for just 5½ hours.
Former master at Holles Street Dr Peter Boylan told the court that “on the balance of probabilities” the rupture could have been “precipitated or caused” by an assault, as described by Ms Mills.
However, he said that, while uncommon, it was possible for the membrane to rupture spontaneously at 21 weeks. Ms Mills had already had two uneventful pregnancies, which made this less likely, he said.
Garda Deirdre McMenamin said Ms Mills told her about the alleged assault in a private conversation the day after the baby’s death, but subsequently refused to make a statement of complaint. The matter was investigated twice by gardaí, with files sent to the Director of Public Prosecution, who returned directions of no prosecution on both occasions.
Summing up for the jury, coroner Dr Brian Farrell pointed to the “serious conflict” in the evidence given by Ms Mills and Mr Byrne, saying that it could not be resolved by the inquest.
The jury returned an open verdict.
Ms Mills shouted “you should be ashamed of yourself”, at the jury as they left the court. As gardaí attempted to calm her down, she said: “My son died for nothing, he died in agony for nothing.”