Newbury Baby Murder Trial: James Lawton Denies Colby Lawton Murder
The man accused of murdering his month-old baby in Newbury last year has told a court he did not cause the injuries that led to his death.
James Lawton, 28, formerly of Boreham Field, Wiltshire, said he accepted medical evidence showing his son Colby suffered fatal injuries before his death on May 9, 2020.
But he denied knowing how he received them and insisted he did not shake his baby to death, as the prosecution had previously alleged.
The father began testifying from the witness stand today in a trial which also saw Colby’s mother (and Lawton’s partner), Chantelle Stroud, 25, charged with causing or allowing the death of a person under the age of 16. Stroud denies the accusation.
Eloise Marshall QC, prosecutor, said at the start of the trial: “We say Colby was shaken profusely and violently, causing brain bleeds, fractures and other injuries.
“We’re saying it happened in the minutes and hour before Colby died.”
READ MORE: Mother allowed partner to shake month-old baby to death, court finds
In her opening statement, Ms Marshall alleged that James Lawton fatally assaulted her son in the early hours of May 9, 2020, after breaking his head in a separate incident days before.
Asked about a lump on Colby’s head the infant suffered days before his death, Lawton said he was unsure where the injury came from.
He said he did not seek medical advice after discussing the injury with Stroud, although he did ask his mother if he should take care of Colby.
The man recounted how, the week before his death, Colby let out a loud, shrill cry when he lifted him up and said the toddler was not happy to be taken in his final days.
“If I lifted him up and he cried like that, I would pass him on to Chantelle [Stroud]”said Lawton.
The day before Colby’s death, Stroud bought two four-packs of Tesco Cider and four cans of Thatcher’s Cider in the early evening.
Lawton said he drank some of the alcohol and Stroud went out again around 10 p.m. to get more alcohol.
The 28-year-old said he drank six cans of alcohol while watching TV that evening.
READ MORE: Duo charged over death of month-old baby
He rated his intoxication that night as “4/10” and that he was the more alcohol-influenced of the two.
Lawton said Colby started “moaning” before Stroud, of Newtown Road, Newbury, returned and picked him up.
The defendant claimed that this was when Colby gave a “shrill cry”.
“It made me panic, I never really knew what to do in these situations. I never knew what he needed, ”Lawton said.
The man from Wiltshire said he had tried to appease Colby by carrying into their living room.
Reading Crown Court learned how Stroud got in and took Colby from Lawton and she fed him.
Lawton and Stroud then had an argument in which they yelled at each other, the former claimed.
After that Lawton went to watch a movie in the living room.
When asked what his last interaction was with Colby before he was put to bed, Lawton replied: “When I had him in my arms walking in the living room and she [Stroud] came back with the store.
The next time he saw Colby was when he heard him make a noise. The noises were “like a growl,” the court heard.
He went to the room to get Colby because he was “a little pale”.
Lawton said Stroud would normally take care of Colby if he made noise at night.
“We had a fight that night, and I thought if I woke her up it would start things with her.
“We had been arguing that I wasn’t helping much, so I thought it would start if I did. [wake her up]”said Lawton.
The father said Colby was not “as responsive as usual” but that “it wasn’t really about me at the time”.
He said Colby didn’t cry when the baby was picked up and started to feed him.
Lawton said he couldn’t be sure Colby was feeding at this point as he was “half-focused” as he also watched TV.
Colby’s eyes weren’t open at the time, Lawton claimed, and his growl stopped.
But then he would hear Colby “shaking” and “gurgling” and his “breathing was not normal”.
“He was really limp at this point, I remember picking up one of his arms and letting go thinking he would react to that, but he didn’t, he just fell back,” Lawton said. .
Lawton said he went straight to the bedroom to wake Stroud up because he was “really freaked out at this point” and because he thought Colby was choking.
At this point Colby was so pale he was “almost white”.
Lawton said he told Stroud Colby he wasn’t breathing. He passed it to her and patted her on the back.
They traded their phones. Stroud called an ambulance on Lawton’s phone because he had no credit, while he called his mother on Stroud’s phone.
He said a respondent from 999 told Stroud to give Colby CPR on a hard surface.
The court heard how Lawton attempted to perform CPR on Colby by pinching his nose and breathing into his mouth, but did not attempt chest compressions.
Colby did not respond to these attempts to revive him.
Lawton said he noticed blood on Colby’s face when he was lying on the breakfast bar and cleaned up the blood while police were at their house.
The defendant said he accepted medical evidence showing Colby had injuries that caused his death, but denied any knowledge of how he suffered or inflicted them himself.
Asked by a lawyer speaking on Ms Stroud’s behalf, Lawton admitted that he had assaulted his partner before, including headbutting her.
He also confessed to hitting a neighbor after trying to calm him down following an argument with Stroud in which he admitted to cheating on her.
The trial continues.
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