Woman who let 18-year-old son rot to death in soiled nappy 'panicked' when she hid dead baby in rucksack, court told

Tom Barnes

A mother accused of allowing her teenage son to “rot to death” has told a court she “panicked” when she hid the corpse of her infant child in a rucksack.

Dawn Cranston, standing trial accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of 18-year-old Jordan Burling, recounted the day police found the remains of the baby.

The 45-year-old has admitted a charge of concealing the birth of a child by secretly disposing of a body, claiming she had hidden the stillbirth at the family’s home in the Farnley, Leeds, since 2002.

She told jurors at Leeds Crown Court on Friday she had been unaware of the pregnancy until she started to feel something “really heavy” in her body half an hour before giving birth.

“If I remember rightly, I don't think its eyes were open,” Ms Cranston said, tearfully describing the incident in the dock.

“I heard no noise, nothing. There were no signs at all of life. I just panicked, as nobody else knew that I was pregnant.”

She claimed her intention was to bury the remains, but “did not get round to it” and was unable to as there were always other people in the house.

The infant was uncovered by police in a “rancid-smelling” bag as they carried out a property search following the death of Mr Burling in June 2016, some 14 years after the baby's birth.

Jurors had previously heard how the teenager was found by paramedics laying on a filthy blow-up mattress, wearing a soiled nappy and weighing less than six stone.

Prosecutors have likened Mr Burling’s emaciated state to that of a Second World War concentration camp victim, becoming lighter than an average 12-year-old boy as he was allowed to “rot to death”.

His mother told the court on Thursday she had become concerned about his health in April 2016 when he suddenly lost weight.

Crying throughout her account of the months leading up to his death, Ms Cranston claimed that the teenager “suddenly got to the point where he wouldn't move out of the chair”.

(l to r) Denise Cranston, Abigail Burling and Dawn Cranston are accused of manslaughter (SWNS)

Jurors were told Mr Burling refused to go to a doctor, which his mother claimed was the result of a previous bad experience where he had been turned away for being “a minute late”.

She said that, despite him “talking like normal”, it had become evident he was unwell and had started to wear nappies after refusing to get out of his chair.

Ms Cranston told how, in a failed bid to show Mr Burling how ill he looked, she showed him pictures of himself, but said: “He did not think anything was wrong.”

Jordan Burling weighed less than the average 12-year-old at the time of his death (Photos SWNS)

“He didn't think he would die. I didn't want him to die,” she added.

“I told him 'you've got to look after me when I get older', and he said that he would.”

Dawn Cranston denies manslaughter by gross negligence, as do Mr Burling's grandmother, Denise Cranston, 70, and 25-year-old sister Abigail Burling.

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA