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25 February 2015, 17:51
A long-standing heroin addict from Birmingham killed her two-year-old son by giving him methadone to "knock him out'' so she could smoke drugs, a court has heard.
Kelly Emery, 34, is alleged to have given at least two previous doses of methadone to Fenton Hogan in the months before his death in July 2013.
Opening the case against Emery, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC alleged that two dummies found at Fenton's home in Frankley, Birmingham, were contaminated with traces of cocaine.
Emery, formerly of Cotswold Close, Frankley, denies charges of manslaughter and child cruelty which allege that she deliberately gave methadone to her son. But she has admitted alternative counts of manslaughter by gross negligence and neglect by failing to prevent her son gaining access to methadone himself.
During an hour-long opening speech to jurors at Nottingham Crown Court, Mr Hotten said Emery dialled 999 at 11.20am on Monday July 1 2013 "in a state of very considerable distress''.
Alleging that Emery had smoked crack cocaine the previous evening, Mr Hotten added: "Her words to the ambulance operator were 'I woke up and he's stone cold'.
"Within a few minutes an ambulance arrived at Kelly Emery's home. They found her crying and screaming. Fenton, her son, was completely unresponsive.''
Although Fenton, who had no obvious injuries, was taken to a hospital, it was far too late to do anything to help him and he was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival, the court heard.
Describing Fenton as an "apparently robust'' little boy, Mr Hotten added that blood samples and examination of the boy's stomach contents had later established that he had died from methadone poisoning.
Setting out the Crown's case, Mr Hotten told the jury: "You will appreciate, since Kelly Emery is on trial, that the prosecution asserts that it was she who poisoned her son.
"Not, I emphasise from the outset, deliberately in the sense that she gave methadone intending to kill him, or cause him really serious harm.
"We say that drugs were the dominant feature of her life. That Sunday evening she had crack cocaine.
"She wanted to smoke it and we say she gave Fenton methadone knowing - to put it colloquially - that it would knock him out, and enable her to do what she wanted without interference from a fractious child.''
The trial was told that Emery, who led a "chaotic'' lifestyle, was prescribed methadone as a heroin substitute in liquid form, in bottles with child-proof tops.
Mr Hotten went on: "We say - and this is a key issue in this case - there is no question of a two-year-old child being able to open and swallow methadone from such a bottle.''
Claiming that Fenton had ingested methadone on at last two occasions prior to consuming the fatal dose, Mr Hotten told the court: ``After Fenton's death, samples of his hair were taken and sent away to a laboratory in France.
"Methadone was found in two sections of Fenton's hair, suggesting exposure to methadone on more than one occasion in the two to five months prior to his death.
"That is in addition to the fatal dose of methadone.
"In one section a breakdown product of methadone was found which supports the proposition that this lad had swallowed methadone rather than the hair simply being contaminated by contact with methadone.''