A toddler was beaten so hard and so many times that he was left blinded just minutes before he died, a coroner’s court has heard.
Liam Gonzales Bennett was just 20 months old when he suffered 31 bruises to his head, possibly caused by a clenched fist, Coroner Suzanne Anderson was told.
The child from Ballymena, Co Antrim died at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in February 2007, and even though his mother and her ex partner were later questioned by police investigating the death, no charges were ever preferred.
A murder inquiry was launched but the detective who headed it up, Debbie McMaster said: “There wasn’t enough evidence to identify who had caused the injuries to Liam.”
The shocking details of the baby’s death emerged during an inquest which heard how he was found unresponsive in his cot while his mother, Samantha Bennett was out shopping.
Her fiance at the time, Noel McKeown was looking after the boy and his older sister at the couple’s home in Sunningdale Park. The court was told Mr McKeown had heard Liam cry and when he went to investigate found the baby was not breathing.
Mr McKeown who now lives in Australia, made a frantic call to Ms Bennett, who had been at the Tesco shop 10 minutes away, and then called an ambulance before beginning resuscitation efforts.
Ambulance crews were working on the child when Ms Bennett returned to the house.
Liam was rushed to Antrim Area Hospital but his condition was so grave he was transferred to an intensive care unit at the RVH. However, doctors were so concerned about the severity of his injuries they contacted police and social services.
Baby Liam died a day after his admission to hospital and a murder investigation was immediately launched.
A post mortem examination carried out two days later revealed multiple bruises at the back of his skull, on the left side of his head, his right forehead and the adjacent right area at the side of his skull.
Deputy state pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley said the injuries were consistent with being punched with a clenched fist.
“These were discreet bruises. Thirty-one in total, up to 21 inches in diameter. I have suggested that they were consistent with impact from an object or objects with a relatively small surface area, possibly the knuckles of a fist,” said Dr Bentley.