Died 14th May 2011
Crystal Hall-Hummel, who was 11 months old, was found severely injured on 13th May 2011 at an address in Nursery Lane, Worthing in Sussex. She died the next day in St Thomas’s Hospital, London.
On 19th September 2012, Jerome Edwards (27) of Bridgefield Close, Midhurst, who was on trial for the baby’s murder at Lewes Crown Court, was instead unanimously found guilty of manslaughter. The jury accepted that he lost his temper when the baby wouldn’t stop crying. He was jailed for 8 years.
Edwards was formerly boyfriend to Crystal’s mother, Georgina Hummel (now 18), but was not the father of the child. They had been together for ten months at the time the baby was killed. Ms Hummel was living in a mother and baby support unit in Worthing and often visited Edwards at his home. She had twice before left Crystal there alone overnight to sleep to give herself a break, the court was told.
Outside court Ms Hummel paid tribute to her daughter, saying: “I miss her so much and I will never stop loving her.” She also condemned her former boyfriend, saying: “I can only pray that in the future he is never given responsibility for a baby or child and he is never again given the trust that I gave him, as my punishment for his crime is worse that any punishment he could ever be given. To lose a child is bad enough, but to lose one knowing that they suffered a violent and cruel death at the hands of someone you trust is heartbreaking.”
Paramedics found the baby “completely blue and not breathing” when they arrived at the flat, Lewes Crown Court was told, but they managed to resuscitate Crystal after 50 minutes. She was taken to Worthing Hospital and was thereafter transferred to London, where she died.
According to Sussex Police, a post-mortem examination carried out by a Home Office pathologist and a specialist paediatric pathologist gave a provisional cause of Crystal’s death as head injury. Further detailed and expert analysis by doctors specialising in infant head injury established that her death was caused by internal head injuries.
Edwards was accused of shaking and possibly throwing Crystal Hall-Hummel after “losing his patience” at her crying. Jurors at Lewes Crown Court wept as Judge Anthony Scott-Gall recounted how Edwards shook tiny Crystal like a rag doll. He said the child’s life was “snuffed out in a moment” and described it as “..a grave, unhappy and serious case.” The child suffered such traumatic injuries one doctor said they were the “most severe” he had seen in 20 years.
Jennifer Knight, the prosecutor, told the court Edwards had been looking after Crystal alone in his flat while her mother Georgina caught up on some sleep at the mother and baby unit where she lived nearby. Ms Knight told jurors at Lewes Crown Court: “When Crystal was examined she was found to have injuries consistent with having been shaken forcefully and some kind of impact to the top of her head.” She added that there were three main categories of injuries suffered by Crystal found after her death which pointed to her being forcefully shaken. Ms Knight said these three injuries were known as a ‘triad’ and were consistent with a baby possibly being shaken forcefully. Ms Knight said: “Jerome Edwards was the only person present at the time and must have in reality inflicted these injuries. In light of the injuries suffered it is apparent Jerome Edwards must have lost his patience with her – perhaps due to tiredness from a late night with a crying baby. He must have lost his temper for a short period of time and may have shaken her before throwing her or hitting her against something. When he shook Crystal he must have known inherently that in doing that to a child of her age he would likely cause her serious harm.”
Ms Knight said: “Jerome Edwards told paramedics that Crystal had been asleep on the sofa, she had woken him so he gave her a bottle of milk and then he fell back asleep.
When he next woke up he heard a squeaking gurgling noise and found that Crystal was not breathing and was already purple.” After he arrived at the hospital he added that he had shaken Crystal after finding her to get her to breathe again but that he had not done it hard.
In his evidence, Edwards said he had tried to resuscitate Crystal after waking to find her blue and limp. He said he had swaddled the baby in a blanket and propped her up on the sofa with a bottle propped in her mouth before falling back to sleep. He said that when he found Crystal wasn’t breathing he tried to shake her to resuscitate her. He claimed not to have intended to hurt her. He said “Of course I didn’t intend to hurt her. She was my little girl. It’s really hard but I’m having to blame myself. I don’t want to. I never hurt Crystal or Georgina or anyone.”
A council spokeswoman said: “This was a tragedy for all involved, and we would like to extend our sympathies and thoughts to Crystal’s mother Georgina and her family and friends. The last year and a half has been a traumatic time for all the family and we hope that the conclusion of the trial will offer some form of closure for them.”
Judge Anthony Scott-Gall told Edwards: “You momentarily lost your temper with little Crystal”. He completely rejected Edwards’ tale that Crystal suffered the injuries by choking on a bottle. However, he accepted he did not set out to murder her, adding: “There was no intention to kill that little girl and you are full of remorse for killing her.” He even said that before the killing Crystal, Ms Hummel and Edwards were a “happy little family of three”.
The Judge’s words are very much at variance Georgina Hummel’s statement which was made after the court case. Her full statement was:
“It is very difficult to explain how I feel. A mixture of emotions – anger, pain, sorrow, guilt. My life and that of my family have been torn apart. Before this trial began, all I wanted to know was what happened that night and why my daughter died. I was not fully aware of the extent of her injuries and the distress she must have felt before she lost consciousness. How can someone do that to an innocent baby, who never caused harm to anyone and who could not fight back or defend herself? I can only pray that my little girl did not suffer too much in those last few hours of her life. That would be unbearable. Crystal’s life had only just begun and was cut short by the violent hands of Jerome Edwards, a man both Crystal and I trusted. She was just a baby. For the jury to find him guilty, there has been justice for my baby’s death and action taken for the person responsible. I know it will not bring Crystal back, but it will ensure he has plenty of time to think about what he did to a defenceless, innocent baby and the pain he has caused me and my family. People now know that he is an evil man capable of killing. I can only pray that in the future he is never given responsibility for a baby or child and he is never again given the trust that I gave him, as my punishment for his crime is worse that any punishment he could ever be given.To lose a child is bad enough, but to lose one knowing that they suffered a violent and cruel death at the hands of someone you trust is heartbreaking. Crystal is irreplaceable. I miss her so much and I will never stop loving her.”
In evidence, Georgina Hummel had said of Edwards: “He bought her presents and clothes and did everything he could and sometimes looked after her when I was too tired. He would make her bottles and change her. He was really good with her.” However, she recalled an incident “The second time he looked after her he had her on the bed wrapped up and he went to the toilet and she managed to get out of the blanket and whacked her head on the metal headboard. He phoned me up straight away and said he needed to take her to the doctor because she had banged her head. I was shocked and crying. One of the other girls at the mother and baby centre told me that if she had a bruise it meant she would not have any internal injuries. He took her to the doctors but it wasn’t open because it was a Sunday but by the time we got back she was laughing and wasn’t sick. I just thought it was a little bang on the head.”
The death was investigated by the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team. West Sussex Local Safeguarding Children Board is in the process of carrying out a serious case review into Crystal’s death for West Sussex County Council. The initial findings are that this death was not predictable, and therefore could not have been prevented. Crystal had been known to the local authority’s social services team and had been on its “Children in Need” register, though not the “At Risk Register”.
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the Argus Newspaper.