Horrific injuries suffered by baby allegedly killed by aunt


A four-month-old baby, who police allege was murdered by her aunt, presented to hospital with a shocking array of injuries, including multiple fractures to her ribs and legs, bruises all over her head and body, and haemorrhaging and brain swelling consistent with 'shaken baby syndrome', a court has heard.

Waterford West woman Sandra Leigh Houston, 37, was charged with murder after her four-month-old niece, Senah, died in Queensland Children's Hospital on November 20, 2018, the day after she presented to Logan Hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Senah was being cared for by Ms Houston and her husband, Jason Michael Bowman, 39, following the death of Ms Houston's twin sister of heart problems six weeks after Senah's birth.

Mr Bowman was charged with the lesser offences of cruelty to a child under 16 and six counts of leaving a child under 12 unattended, charges Ms Houston is also faced with.

Sandra Leigh Houston, 37, of Waterford West. Picture: Facebook
Sandra Leigh Houston, 37, of Waterford West. Picture: Facebook

Police claim Senah's injuries began accruing shortly after her mother's death, with the cruelty charges against Ms Houston and Mr Bowman dating from August 24, 2018 until the baby's death.

However, this was contradicted by several witnesses who gave evidence in court on Wednesday.

Sandra Leigh Houston, 37, of Waterford West. Picture: Facebook
Sandra Leigh Houston, 37, of Waterford West. Picture: Facebook

Senah's grandfather, Neville Houston, told the court he saw the baby on November 15 or 16 and didn't perceive anything to be wrong with her.

He agreed she was sitting in her bouncer, awake and not crying.

Likewise, neighbour and family friend Peter Schmidt, who said he visited the family's Mark Ln property on November 14.

He agreed all children - the victim and five other children - were present and seemed happy.

However, by the time Senah presented to Logan Hospital on November 19, she was in a frightful condition, the court heard.

She was "unconscious and required resuscitation … and intubation" due to irregular breathing, the court heard.

She had subdural haemorrhaging (bleeding on the brain), retinal bleeding and cerebral oedema (brain swelling), consistent with "shaken baby syndrome", although witness paediatrician Dr Julie Beak noted this terminology was becoming unpopular in medical literature due to the fact this "triad" of injuries can be caused in multiple ways.

Jason Michael Bowman, 39. Picture: Alex Treacy
Jason Michael Bowman, 39. Picture: Alex Treacy

Senah also presented with bruises on her face, behind her ears, on her body and on her legs, which had sustained multiple fractures, including a metaphyseal corner fracture, also known as a "bucket handle fracture".

Several of Senah's ribs had lateral fractures and she had a scratch on her nose.

She died just before 1.50pm on November 20 in the QCH Intensive Care Unit.

Defence counsels John Fraser and Catherine Morgan posited that the injuries may have occurred through rough handling by the other children in the home, or alternatively via an accidental fall by one of the adults in the shower which caused them to squeeze Senah.

Both barristers conceded there were prima facie cases against their clients.

Houston's charges of murder and cruelty were committed to the Brisbane Supreme Court to be heard on a date yet to be set.

Bowman's charge of cruelty was likewise committed to the Beenleigh District Court.

Both defendants' charges of leaving a child unattended will be mentioned in Beenleigh Magistrates Court next March.

Originally published as Horrific injuries suffered by baby allegedly murdered by aunt