Murdered Baby after Series of Attacks, Court Told
By Martin Halfpenny, PA News
A father murdered his 10-week-old daughter
by banging her head and shaking her in the culmination of a
series of attacks which left the child suffering 32 fractures, a
court was told today.
Charlotte Latta suffered extensive brain damage after the back
of her head was banged on a solid surface and she was shaken
violently by her father, Mark Latta, 41, on December 2, 2001,
Winchester Crown Court heard.
Jamie Gibbons QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Latta was
feeding his daughter upstairs in their detached four bedroom
house in Byron Close, Bishop’s Waltham, Hants, when it is
alleged he lost his temper and attacked his daughter while the
rest of the family sat down to Sunday lunch.
Mr Gibbons said: “She may well have been difficult about feeding
and he lost his temper, he banged her head hard against a solid
surface of some kind and shook her.”
Charlotte was taken to the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in
Winchester where doctors found she had a fractured skull and
pressure from blood in the brain. A skeletal scan showed that
she had 32 fractures to her ribs, limbs and collar bone.
Mr Gibbons said that some of these were old injuries and alleged
that Latta had attacked Charlotte at least three times,
including the time he murdered her.
“It became clear to the doctors that in the past she had been
repeatedly and cruelly mistreated by someone who had used
considerable and overwhelming force,” he said.
“She had been squeezed with such force her ribs had fractured.
“Just imagine how hard you would have to squeeze a baby to
fracture her ribs,” he said to the jury.
The court heard that that wealthy businessman and his now wife
Sharon had had problems with Charlotte’s feeding and she had
spent several nights in hospital during November 2001.
On the day of the alleged murder, Latta had taken her to the
Royal Hampshire County Hospital for a check-up and she had been
Mr Gibbons explained to the jury that very few people looked
after Charlotte and, if they discounted that the other carers, a
stranger or hospital staff had attacked her more than once then
as a process of elimination it must ultimately come to her
father as the murderer.
Mr Gibbons explained that the banging of the head on a solid
surface and the shaking had been “extreme violence”. He said
that it might not have been Latta’s intention to kill his
daughter but he’d intended her considerable harm, even if he
The court heard that Latta and his wife were well off and lived
in a detached four bedroom property, had a nanny and drove a BMW
and an Audi TT but Mr Gibbons said: “Respectability
notwithstanding, this baby was being abused.”
Mr Gibbons told the jury that Charlotte’s head injuries were so
severe she was dying and at 6pm on December 4, 2001 her life
support machine was switched off.
Latta was then arrested and interviewed at length. He told
detectives nothing strange or untoward had happened to his
daughter as he fed her alone upstairs.
He said that she was feeding fine until, he told detectives, she
“spluttered and some of the milk came out of her mouth in a fine
spray. Almost instantly her eyes started to shut. I remember
thinking she ’cannot go to sleep’, so I took the bottle out of
her mouth and she started to make a strange deep wheezing sound
and I saw her eyeballs roll back into her head and she started
to go limp. I called out, ’Sharon, Sharon, come upstairs there
is something wrong, something wrong with Charlotte’.”
But Mr Gibbons told the jury: “The bit the defendant missed out
was the cause of all this. He knew perfectly well he had banged
her head, probably against the floor. Babies do not suddenly
keel over with bruised scalps out of the blue.”
He also told the jury that Charlotte had been cuddled by her
grandmother and aunt in the moments before she was taken
upstairs by Latta and she had been fine.
He said it was important to remember “how suddenly and
dramatically Charlotte’s condition changed after going upstairs
with the defendant and coming down unconscious a short time
He said that if Charlotte had been banged against a solid
surface she would have become immediately ill. Her colour would
have changed, there would have been abnormalities of colour, she
would have gone floppy, she would have vomited and she would
have made abnormal noises. He said all these things had happened
Mr Gibbons told the court that the old rib fractures to
Charlotte were between four days and eight weeks old and that
the fractures to her arms and legs, which he had said had been
caused by twisting them, were between seven days and four weeks
In a short opening address to the jury, defence counsel, Anthony
Jennings, QC, said that Latta was a loving and committed father
who had never harmed his child. He explained that 13
professionals had examined Charlotte during her brief life and
Latta had shown no hesitation about this and had in fact told
many they had not examined her fully enough.
Latta, formally of Byron Avenue, Bishop’s Waltham, Hants, denies
murder and two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with
intent to Charlotte, between October 1 and December 2, 2001. The
trial, which is expected to take five weeks, continues.