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CLEARED OF BABY MURDER; Mum escapes charge of choking newborn son as case collapses.

Byline: By MIRROR REPORTER

A MUM who claimed her baby died after he was born on her sofa was yesterday cleared of throttling him to death.

Wendy Johnston was accused of strangling her baby boy after she gave birth in the living room of her home in Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh, in February last year .

But she claimed her boy made a purring sound for about 20 minutes before he fell silent and she wrapped him in a towel and left him in the kitchen.

The case against Wendy Johnston collapsed yesterday when the prosecution said they had no evidence.

Ms Johnston, 34, was not at Dungannon Crown Court, Co Tyrone, when lawyers revealed their 11th hour decision after a review of medical evidence as she was still in prison.

Ms Johnston will not be formally cleared of the charge of murder of a male infant until a jury is sworn in and directed by a judge to return a "not guilty" verdict.

Belfast High Court heard last year that police were called to Ms Johnston's home by her sister Caroline Breen at around 10pm on February 22.

Ms Johnston had called her and when Ms Breen arrived she allegedly told her she had given birth two days earlier, before she led her into the kitchen and showed her the infant's body wrapped in towels.

Following Ms Johnston's arrest six days later she allegedly told detectives none of her family knew she was pregnant. She was said to have claimed that on February 20 while she was watching TV her waters broke and shortly after, the baby boy was born on the sofa.

Brian Curran of the Public Prosecution Service yesterday told Mr Justice Hart the Crown were offering no further evidence against Ms Johnston after a review of evidence.

Mr Curran added a number of medical reports had been exchanged between the prosecution and defence.

The lawyer said: "I had consultations yesterday at 4.30pm with Dr Ingram prosecution pathologist and at that stage all of the medical evidence was reviewed in relation to this case.

"As a consequence of that review the decision has been taken to offer no evidence against this accused."

Defence lawyer Simon Reid, who asked for a jury to be sworn in as soon as possible, originally said their case did not rely on the medical report which they had not served on the prosecution.

However, this report was in turn reviewed by a top paediatrician who asked for further comment to be made.

Mr Reid added as a result an adendum to their original report was made and at that stage it was decided they were going to rely upon it in evidence.

The addition, together with the initial report, were then supplied to the prosecuting authorities.

ulster@mirror.co.uk

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 6, 2007
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