A Victorian father accused of murdering his three-month-old daughter says she choked and fell unconscious, but medical experts allege her injuries are linked to shaken baby syndrome.
Joby Anthony Rowe was on Friday ordered to stand trial on a charge he murdered his young daughter in August last year.
The 24-year-old has pleaded not guilty to murdering the infant, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
The three-month-old girl became critically ill at her central Victorian home on August 29 and was airlifted to the Melbourne Royal Children’s Hospital, but died the next day.
Rowe told his partner and paramedics he had been giving his daughter a bottle of baby formula when she choked, vomited, and fell unconscious.
But pathologist Greg Young said choking would not have caused the injuries detected in the autopsy.
‘Subdural haemorrhages … are very unlikely to be caused by choking,’ he told Rowe’s committal hearing at the Bendigo Magistrates Court on Friday.
An ophthalmologist also found retinal haemorrhages in the baby’s eyes, the court heard.
Forensic paediatrician Joanna Tully alleged the subdural haemorrhages detected in the 12-week-old were caused by shaken baby syndrome.
Bleeding was also detected in other parts of her body.
‘She did have some blood around her spine,’ said Dr Tully.
‘I think the most likely cause was impact.’
No trauma was detected on her skull, she said.
When asked if subdural haemorrhages caused by a traumatic birth could have started bleeding again, Dr Tully said it was unlikely.
‘I don’t think those types of haemorrhages would re-bleed,’ she said.
But the forensic paediatrician said this was a contentious area of medicine and some research showed re-bleeding of earlier subdural haemorrhages could occur.
‘There was no evidence in this case where that was a predisposing factor,’ Dr Tully said.
Rowe had been at home taking care of the baby when her mother returned from work and saw the little girl had stopped breathing and blood was coming out of her nose, a police statement said.
The 26-year-old woman began CPR and the baby was in cardiac arrest by the time a paramedic treated her.
The baby’s mother and grandparents say the child was in good health in the week preceding her death.
She was born about six weeks premature in May 2015 and a maternal health nurse gave evidence she was satisfied with the infant’s progress and the care she was receiving.
Rowe will appear before the Victorian Supreme Court for a directions hearing about his trial on July 22.