In September 2014, Claudia Martins suffocated her newborn daughter by stuffing toilet paper down her throat and hiding her body in a suitcase. However, Martins will not be facing jail time because a judge accepted her argument that she had a “momentary abnormality of mental functioning.” Instead, Martins will be serving two years of community service with supervision requirements.
According to the Daily Mail, Justice Teare of Winchester Crown Court heard that Martins was suffering from a condition known as a ‘pathological denial of pregnancy’ that continued after giving birth to her daughter. Martin’s baby was between 35 and 36 weeks gestation when she died; and at the time of the tragic incident, she was living in a crowded flat with her sister.
The judge explained, “On September 12 last year you gave birth to a baby girl and very shortly afterwards you killed that baby by inserting tissue paper in her mouth. Immediately thereafter you hid the baby in a suitcase and it was not discovered for three days. The explanation for your conduct is you were suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning, which substantially impaired your judgment. This arose from a medical condition known as a pathological denial of pregnancy, which continued despite the obvious presence of a baby.
The giving of birth didn’t bring the denial to an end and you continued to deny the pregnancy to your family, friends and medical personnel. It was a great shock to you and induced in you a state of panic. Your actions of killing the baby were a manifestation of your irrational condition and your actions were wholly out of character.”
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The court decided to convict Martins of manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility. Judge Teare concluded, “Quite why you developed a pathological denial of pregnancy is unclear but it’s likely to be you living with the pressures of living with two children in cramped conditions without a partner in a foreign country and unable to speak English without any prospect of a job.”
Thankfully, social services have taken Martins other children into custody. The prosecutor in the case, Adam Vaitilingam QC, told the court that Martin hid the pregnancy from her friends and family and denied giving birth altogether. He said, “She told no-one of her pregnancy and gave birth in as secretive a way as she could, for someone living in a crowded flat, and kept the fact of that birth secret from all those around her and closest to her, including her sister. She placed the body of the baby in a suitcase, hidden from anyone.”
Vaitilingam added, “No doubt, we suggest she intended to dispose of it but was prevented from doing so by the arrival of the paramedics, who took her off to hospital. The key piece of evidence we say, is the presence of the wad of toilet paper, stuffed into the baby’s mouth. “Other than the defendant, there is no other plausible candidate for doing that, and no explanation for it other than it was put there in order to stop the baby from breathing.”
Following the discovery of the baby’s body police were called and officers arrested Martins on September 15, the day after she was discharged from hospital.
In police interviews on September 17 she claimed she was in the bath because her back and legs hurt when the baby suddenly came out. She said she caught the baby but it wasn’t crying or moving.
Our thoughts are with the victim’s wider family as they are struggling to comprehend how and why this tragedy happened. However, Dr Russell Delaney carried out a post mortem examination on September 17 and could not find any evidence that the baby was stillborn.
He added he believed that the wad of tissue paper, made up of around five pieces, was deliberately inserted, a court heard. Mr Vaitilingam added: ‘It is also Dr Delaney’s view that the obstruction of the baby’s airways by this object would have caused its death if the baby had been born alive.’
In mitigation, Christopher Quinlan QC said: ‘Here we have a vulnerable defendant being held in custody and in my respectful submission she should not be there. ‘Given the circumstances of this case and the jury’s finding the court could impose a sentence that results in her immediate release.’
Martins has already served eight months in custody following her arrest in September last year which Mr Justice Teare took into account when sentencing.
Speaking after the verdict, Senior Investigating Officer Det Insp Neil Meade said: ‘The death of a baby is always a tragedy but the unique circumstances make this a particularly emotive case for everyone involved.
‘Our thoughts are very much with the victim’s wider family as they are struggling to comprehend how and why this tragedy happened.’