A YOUNG mother accused of murdering her baby with salt broke down in tears today when she described to a jury her last hours with her son.
Marianne Williams told Winchester Crown Court how she cuddled 15-month-old Joshua Taylor in her arms before doctors switched off his life support machine.
Williams, 24, of Wiltshire, denies the murder of Joshua in 2004 by giving him salt or sodium, and an alternative charge of manslaughter.
The prosecution allege she murdered Joshua because she could not cope with looking after him after he was born prematurely with kidney failure and a host of other serious ailments, which required considerable care.
Giving evidence, Williams cried as she said she had bought the youngster toys and stayed with him along with her partner Paul Taylor all through his last night and day.
She told the court: “They put him in a side room and I was with him up until they turned it off, I couldn’t do the formal identification, so Paul did that but I stayed until then.”
The court heard that at the time, police had already searched the couple’s home because doctors had raised concerns that Joshua had been poisoned when he was admitted to Southampton General Hospital on February 24 2004.
Earlier, the court heard that Joshua died in hospital three days after the salt in his body caused brain damage. Tests showed he had very high levels of sodium in his body, which the prosecution allege Williams gave him through his feeding tube.
In the witness box, Williams told the jury that Joshua had vomited seven times during the night of February 23/24, and that she had taken him downstairs to the sitting room and stayed up with him alone.
“He was quite happy rolling about the floor playing with his toys and babbling,” she said.
But his condition changed at about 5.15am and he had a “laughing fit“, Williams told the jury.
“I was just finishing my cup of tea or coffee when I heard Joshua laughing. I went out to see what it was. Josh appeared dazed and was staring at the ceiling. I was slightly worried then. I sat on the sofa next to him and said, ’Josh, Josh’. After a couple of seconds he stopped laughing and came around and he was all right.”
Williams then spoke to Paul Taylor, who had been asleep upstairs, and they decided to take Joshua to Southampton General Hospital.
When they got there Joshua’s lips had gone blue and he was rushed into the hospital.
Defence counsel Michael Topolski QC read out a part of Williams’s police interview covering when they got to the hospital.
In it she said: “I didn’t know what was happening. I was really upset. I didn’t know what was happening to my little boy. I was crying. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. He was so happy in the night. I really could not understand why he had gone downhill so quickly. It really, really frightened me.”
Asked by Mr Topolski whether she loved her son, Williams replied: “I did very, very much and I still do.”
Mr Topolski asked: Did you wish to keep him with you and care for him?
Williams: “Yes, I did and I still wish he was here this day.”
Williams then said that natural causes had killed her son.
Mr Topolski asked: “Did you deliberately and with the intention of killing him give him an excessive amount of sodium?”
Williams replied: “No, not at all,”
Earlier, the jury was told they had to decide whether Joshua had become naturally dehydrated or had been deliberately poisoned.
Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, alleged that she gave the salt overdose after seeing the effects of too much sodium on her child in an incident a few weeks earlier.
Joshua had been fine the day before he died when he went back to his mother’s house for an extended stay from hospital, the jury heard.
“The evidence leads to a sad but inevitable conclusion that this defendant, Marianne Williams, administered that sodium which caused her own son’s death,” Mr Smith said.
Williams, originally from Wales, was 21 when Joshua died and in a long-term relationship with his father, Paul Taylor.
Joshua was born 12 weeks prematurely by Caesarean section on November 26, 2002. His twin Connor had died in the womb.
He weighed 2lb 10oz (1.2kg) at birth and had a number of medical problems, including very small kidneys.
Mr Smith admitted there was no clear motive for Williams, who was taking anti-depressants after being diagnosed with post-natal depression, to kill her son.
She told police in interview that she could not cope with looking after Joshua in the months before his death, but she told the jury that this was not her and that she had felt much better when she started taking the anti-depressants.
The case was adjourned until tomorrow.