Salt poison case couple convicted

Relates to:
Date: 2005-01-13
Source: BBC

A couple found guilty of killing a three-year-old boy they had planned to adopt have each been jailed for five years for manslaughter.
Ian and Angela Gay, from Halesowen, West Midlands, were convicted of force-feeding Christian Blewitt salt as a punishment over his behaviour.

The court heard the child died after he failed to meet their expectations of family living.

The couple were cleared of murder by a jury at Worcester Crown Court.

The court was told the Gays force-fed Christian at least four teaspoons of salt in his food or drink when they became angry and frustrated at him.

'Under pressure'

The boy was placed with the couple, together with his younger brother and sister, at the Gays' former home in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, in November 2002.

The prosecution claimed the university-educated pair, who bought a five-bedroom house worth £500,000 to accommodate their new family, became disenchanted with Christian when he rejected Mr Gay.

Just days into the 13-week placement, Mr Gay, 37, described Christian as "brainless", "a vegetable" and "a zombie" when he rang his case worker to demand to know what was wrong with him.

In police interviews, Mr Gay said his wife wanted to send the children back in the week before Christian collapsed and she was under pressure from her £200,000-a-year job.

Christian was admitted to hospital five weeks into a trial placement with the couple.

They maintained throughout the seven-week trial that they did not know how Christian came to have a raised sodium level in his blood.

The court heard evidence from numerous medical experts but was told it may never be known what happened to the boy. Sandwell Social Services, which police said primarily handled the adoption process, promised that a review would be completed in the next few weeks.

'Tragic' case

In a statement, Angela Saganowska, of Sandwell Council, said: "(I) note that the judge made no criticism regarding the adoption process in this case."

The review is being carried out by the Sandwell Area Child Protection Committee, which includes representatives from Sandwell Council, West Midlands Police, local health services and the NSPCC.

Afterwards, police said it was a tragic case but they were pleased with the outcome.

Det Chief Insp Steve Cullen, from West Mercia Police, said: "The sentence will never be enough to compensate for his (Christian's) death but justice has been served."

Det Chief Insp Cullen added: "It is difficult to conceive how a little boy would voluntarily eat several teaspoons of salt.

"This has been backed by experts who would say a child would naturally reject even a small quantity."

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