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Call to release baby report


Call to release baby report

A report on the death of a baby, who died almost three years ago, should be released a former assembly member has said.

The child, who had been in the care of a Portadown man, suffered multiple fractures before his death.

The boy had been adopted from Romania by a County Armagh couple.

Geoffrey Briggs, a former overseas missionary, was jailed last year for fracturing the skull of the dead baby's twin brother.

Information obtained by the BBC shows that the 13-month-old child had suffered about 16 fractures to his ribs and torso in the weeks and months prior to his death.

There is no suggestion, however, that he died from those injuries.

The Department of Health tabled a review of the case almost two years ago.

The BBC understands the review has been completed, but not, as yet, been seen by any of the health ministers since the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended.

Former SDLP assembly member Patricia Lewsley, who has lobbied on behalf of children's issues, had called for the report into the affair to be made public.

"I think that the longer the department withholds the report or the reason why it is holding that report the mystery for people will only deepen," she said.

"I am calling on the department to release the report in order to allay the fears that many of the public may have with regard to this case."

Health Minister Angela Smith said her office had received the report on the child's death but she had not yet seen it.

She said she would be giving it careful consideration.

"I need to look at this very carefully and reflect on the lessons that can be learned. It's such a terrible tragedy," she said.

Ms Smith said that publication of the report would depend on any legal action which could be taken.

Mr Briggs adopted the children legally under Romanian law in July 2000. Three months later one of the boys died.

It is understood a post mortem examination was carried out at Craigavon Area Hospital at the time, but no death certificate was issued, and the body was buried.

Just 13 days later, the dead boy's twin was admitted to the hospital with a fractured skull.

Mr Briggs admitted having punched the child, and was later convicted of grievous bodily harm, and sentenced to two years in prison.

The body of the dead boy was then exhumed, and the original x-rays examined.

They showed he had suffered extensive fractures to his ribs and body, none of which have ever been explained.

No inquest has been held and the cause of death remains "undetermined".

There has been no explanation for the fractures, or of what happened when the child was examined on admission.

The surviving child is no longer in the care of Mr Briggs who has since been released from prison. He no longer lives in Northern Ireland.

2003 Jul 2