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Woman gave baby bleach, jury finds
A woman accused of giving the baby of a complete stranger a feeding bottle containing bleach has been found to have carried out the act.
The 11-month-old boy drank some of the liquid and vomited after being handed the bottle in a branch of McDonald's, Woolwich Crown Court was told.
Elaine Joyner, 53, of Vaughan Williams Close, Deptford, south-east London, was charged with administering a poison or noxious substance so as to endanger life.
Judge Andrew Lees ruled she was unfit to plead and a trial to decide whether she carried out the act took place in her absence. A jury of five men and seven women took just half an hour to decide that she did. After the finding that Joyner had carried out the act alleged, the hearing was temporarily adjourned to resume later to consider how to proceed next.
Earlier, the jury was warned that there was a very important issue concerning identification. Police had compiled CCTV evidence which showed a woman carrying a baby's bottle, walking along the High Street in Eltham, and entering McDonald's, where she is seen to pass the bottle towards the boy.
"The prosecution say that this woman is the defendant," the judge said. "There is no witness present at McDonald's who has identified the defendant. However police circulated a still image showing the woman in the entrance of McDonald's. That was seen by police constable Sandra Voak who recognised the woman in the image as the defendant, who she had seen in July 2011. There is a special need for caution before convicting on such evidence, because genuine witnesses can make mistakes in identification." He said Pc Voak had an advantage in that she had been able to view the image on a computer in her own time, but she had been limited to a two-dimensional image.
The judge said the jury could also consider that clothing similar to that worn by the woman in the CCTV had been found at the defendant's address, and also that Joyner's partner Fred Warwick, 68, had said she told him she had been to Eltham that day.
The jury was asked to decide whether Joyner did the act alleged, not whether she was guilty or not guilty. The judge had told the jury: "In this case the defendant has been found by me to be unfit to stand her trial. I have decided on the evidence of two specialist medical practitioners, one instructed by the defence, one by the prosecution, that she is mentally ill, such that she cannot understand the proceedings, cannot understand the evidence and cannot give valid instructions to her legal team.''
The jury heard from Peter Clark, prosecuting, that the incident took place on September 13 last year. He said: "Elaine Joyner, say the prosecution, gave to a complete stranger's baby a feeding bottle that contained a poisonous or noxious substance, a fluid that contained bleach, or something very similar. The baby, who was 11-and-a-half months old, took some of that fluid in his mouth and was immediately rendered ill by it. He retched and vomited over himself and turned very pale. His grandmother seized it from the pram to prevent further harm. Happily, the baby has made a good recovery with no long-term ill effects. Mr Clark said good quality CCTV from McDonald's did not show the precise handing of the bottle, which was just out of shot, but one could see the frame of the pram."
The court has heard that the mother made a statement in which she said: "Some random person had given my baby a bottle, which he had drunk from and was vomiting. As far as I was concerned, my baby had been poisoned."