Samuel Harry was just 19 months old when he was rushed to Bedford Hospital on April 21 2013– and just three days later he died after suffering a bleed to the brain.
During a two day inquest, which concluded this afternoon, it was heard that it is ‘highly likely’ that the child’s injuries were inflicted upon him and that there is little or no possibility the death occurred through natural causes.
It was also heard that his injuries were consistent with a blow to a soft object, such as a carpeted floor.
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At the time of being admitted to hospital Samuel was in the care of his mother Deanna Buffham and her former partner Ryan Bate, who both pointed the finger at each other during the hearing today.
When asked if she injured her son, Miss Buffham, who appeared via a video link from Falkirk, told the hearing “absolutely not”.
She added that she “can only assume” Samuel’s brain injuries were caused by Ryan Bate.
She said: “I would always protect Samuel, I would always tell the truth and do my utmost to find out what happened.
“I need answers as much as anyone else in that courtroom”.
However Ryan Bate later told the hearing: “It follows suit that it was Deanna, it was not me.
“If there were two people and it was not one of them then it must be the other.”
He later said he would have “done himself in” if he had caused Samuel’s death.
Despite extensive police investigations no charges were ever brought forward after the toddler’s death.
Coroner Martin Oldham today handed down a verdict of unlawful killing and condemned Miss Buffham and Mr Bate for their accounts.
He said: “They do know the truth but they have simply not come forward with it.
“I have not the slightest doubt that Samuel was unlawfully killed”.
Samuel’s father Nicholas, who is from Houghton Regis, sobbed as the verdict was read out.
In the days leading up to Samuel’s death the toddler was said to have been suffering from illness.
On April 20 2013 Mr Bate’s mother Sandra went to the couple’s home on Dynevar Close, Bedford, to help take care of the child and his newborn half-sister.
Shortly after Mrs Bate went home at 10pm her son left and was picked up by cameras driving towards Olney.
Between 10:16pm and 10:25pm Mr Bate received three text messages and two missed calls from Miss Buffham.
While at Addenbrooke’s Hospital days later Mr Bate deleted the messages, telling the inquest that he did so to free up memory on his phone.
He added: “I know it looks as dodgy as anything (but) I have got nothing to hide”.
Both Mr Bate and Miss Buffham claim not to remember the former leaving the home on that night, or who put Samuel to bed.
The inquest heard that at the time Miss Buffham would drink two to three bottles of wine a week, though had only had half a glass the night before Samuel was taken to hospital.
Miss Buffham told the hearing that on the day Samuel was found gravely ill she checked on him before going to stables in Wootton for a horse riding session.
The toddler was said to have been asleep on his back at the time, though Mr Bate told the inquest that he found Samuel face down in his cot later on.
Around 20 minutes after taking the child downstairs Mr Bate said that he noticed that Samuel had a dilated pupil and was unresponsive.
That night the toddler underwent neurosurgery but doctors were unable stem the bleed on his brain.
Following Samuel’s death Miss Buffham and Mr Bate split up and their newborn child was taken into care.
Miss Buffham has now had a third child after starting a relationship with Mr Bate’s brother.
While protesting her innocence today she said: “I can only assume that because there was no bruising or outward signs that the fatal blow to Samuel must have been caused on a soft surface.
“It takes time to realise that you introduced someone into Samuel’s life that hurt him.”
She concluded her evidence by telling coroner Martin Oldham: “Please find out what happened to my baby.”
Meanwhile Mr Bate said that he had ‘no reason’ to protect Miss Buffham.
He said: “I want to know what happened to Samuel.
“If I knew (Miss Buffham) had done something the police would have had to come get me.”