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Gardaí considered other possible causes of death in case of GP accused of killing daughter

Bernadette Scully is accused of the manslaughter of her profoundly disabled daughter by giving her too much sedative.

Bernadette Scully (right)
Bernadette Scully (right)
Image: Leah Farrell

AN INSPECTOR HAS told the trial of a GP accused of the manslaughter of her daughter by giving her too much sedative that investigating gardaí had not been “blinkered” about that being the only possible cause of death.

Inspector Ger Glavin was being cross-examined by the defence today in the trial of 58-year-old Bernadette Scully.

The Offaly GP is charged with unlawfully killing 11-year-old Emily Barut, who was profoundly disabled, at their home at Emvale, Bachelor’s Walk, Tullamore.

It’s alleged that she killed her by an act of gross negligence involving the administration of an excessive quantity of chloral hydrate on Saturday, 15 September, 2012.

She has pleaded not guilty and is on trial at the Central Criminal Court.

The trial has heard that Emily had severe epilepsy, as well as microcephaly and cerebral palsy. She had the mental age of a six-month-old, and couldn’t move or speak.

Glavin gave evidence yesterday about the four interviews conducted with Scully following her arrest in April 2014.

Scully had explained that Emily had been in a lot of pain for the last two weeks of her life, after having a procedure to replace the tube into her stomach through which she received fluids and medication.

She said she had given her chloral hydrate when she became upset at 2am and 6am, and had given it again when she had an ‘unprecedented’ seizure around 11am. Scully accepted that she had given her too much.

Post-mortem results 

Kenneth Fogarty SC, defending, cross-examined yesterday, pointing to other possible contributors to her death mentioned in the post-mortem report. These included two of her illnesses and inflammation of the lungs.

“Were the investigators’ minds closed off to other possibilities?” he was asked.

Glavin said that consideration had been given to other possible causes of death, but that “there were excessive amounts of chloral hydrate administered”.

He said the full post-mortem report had been put to the accused in an interview, and that she had “ample opportunity to highlight any other issues as to cause of death”.

“The gardaí did not enter the interview room blinkered as to chloral hydrate being everything,” he said.

As an investigator and interviewer, I could not ignore the figures Dr Scully produced during interview and also the figures produced in the toxicology report.

The trial has already heard that 220 micrograms of the drug’s metabolite, trichloroethanol, was found in Emily’s bloodstream after her death, and the inspector was cross-examined about this.

Fogarty SC asked if it had ever been part of the investigation to find out “what type of quantity of chloral hydrate would give rise to what type of quantity of trichloroethanol”.

“It was, yes,” he replied, adding that working it out was “left to the experts”.

“With all the experts involved, there’s no formula before the jury that equates a level of chloral hydrate with a level of trichloroethanol,” Fogarty suggested.

“I think you tried to elicit that from a number of expert witnesses,” the inspector replied.

The jury also heard from a consultant neuropathologist, who examined samples of Emily’s brain after her death.

Dr Francesca Brett told the defence that she had found evidence of old damage to the brain from a history of seizures, along with more acute damage from what she thought was a more recent event.

She explained that the “red, dead neurons” she found were something that would be seen in people who had survived six to eight hours after an incident.

The prosecution has now closed its case. The trial continues tomorrow morning before Justice Patrick McCarthy and a jury of seven women and five men.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

Read: Bernadette Scully manslaughter trial hears her care of disabled child was “nothing short of superb”

Read: Woman charged with daughter’s death sought advice on lethal sedative dose, court hears

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Natasha Reid

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