Nursery deputy manager guilty of manslaughter over death of baby strapped to bean bag

A deputy manager of a nursery has been found guilty of manslaughter after a nine-month-old baby died when she was strapped tightly to a bean bag.

Kate Roughley, 37, was accused of manslaughter by ill-treatment of Genevieve Meehan, known as Gigi by her family, on 9 May 2022 at Tiny Toes in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

Prosecutors said the youngster died from asphyxiation from a combination of "pathophysiological stresses" after Roughley placed her face down, tightly swaddled and strapped to a bean bag and covered with a blanket.

She then ignored the cries and distress of Genevieve and showed "sporadic" and "fleeting" interest in her wellbeing for one hour and 37 minutes, prosecutors added, until she found her blue and unresponsive.

Roughley, who was the duty baby room leader in charge of sleeping arrangements that day, told Manchester Crown Court she placed Genevieve on her side, claiming her face was visible at all times.

She said she had no concerns she was in any distress.

On Monday, a jury of six men and six women unanimously found Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, guilty of manslaughter.

Prosecutors said the child's death was brought on by a "very unsafe sleeping environment" created by Roughley, which left Genevieve in "mortal danger".

Peter Wright KC said the defendant inappropriately covered Genevieve with a blanket, and then deliberately did nothing about it.

'A recipe for disaster'

In his closing speech to the jurors, Mr Wright said Roughley "considered Genevieve was occupying too much of her time and was too vocal, too demanding, so she was going to do something about it".

"Genevieve was being punished for her earlier perceived misdemeanours, for not sleeping long enough for her liking. She was being banished to the bean bag and restrained.

"It was a recipe for disaster, and disaster there followed."

CCTV of the nursery's baby room, which showed a "virtually immobilised" Genevieve from 1.35pm to 3.12pm on the day of her death, was played to jurors at the start of the trial and left some in tears.

Mr Wright said the youngster's desperate fight for survival was clear but her crying and the thrashing and writhing of her body were routinely and repeatedly ignored.

Actions 'fuelled by illogical hostility'

Roughley paid "lip service" to any meaningful checks and Genevieve's wellbeing until it was too late, he said.

Her actions were said to be fuelled by an "illogical and disturbing hostility" towards the youngster which was revealed on further CCTV footage from 5 and 6 May.

She was subjected to "rough handling" by Roughley, who called her "stress head" and on one occasion told her: "Genevieve go home. Do you have to be so loud and constant? Change the record."

Roughley sang to her "stop whingeing" and "Genevieve go home. Please, I'm even asking nicely. You are driving me bananas and I'm not wearing pyjamas".

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Roughley, who gave evidence while Genevieve's parents, John Meehan and Katie Wheeler, watched on from the public gallery, said she was "devastated" by the tragedy and felt responsible as the child was in her care but did not feel her actions were the cause of her death.

'Loss has destroyed our family'

She said she treated Genevieve no differently from any other child as she told the jury she placed the youngster on her side and that she remained in that position, with her face visible throughout, until she made the grim discovery.

The swaddling and the harness restraint were not so tight that it unduly restricted her movements, she said, and that "kicking her legs" and "tossing and turning" were not out of character for Genevieve.

Speaking after the verdict, Genevieve's family said in a statement: "Genevieve's loss has destroyed our family. We grieve for her every day.

"We long desperately to see her smile, hear her laugh and feel her warm embrace. Her absence is a physical and emotional wound that will never heal."

Detective Inspector Charlotte Whalley said: "Genevieve should have gone home to her family that day and it was down to the actions of Kate Roughley that she did not.

"From the outset, my team has worked tirelessly with the CPS and the council to ensure we can bring some sense of justice for the family... and we will continue to do all that we can to support them."