Burnley mother cleared of manslaughter

Four-month-old Kian McMillan. Photo: Greater Manchester Police

A woman has been cleared of killing her four-month-old son who died from "catastrophic injuries" when a television weighing five stone dropped on his head.

Kian McMillan was lying below on his changing mat and died a day later in hospital after the incident at his home in Burnley, Lancashire, on December 6 last year.

Natalie McMillan, 25, initially told detectives she accidentally knocked over the TV set as she attempted to move it to plug in a scart lead and watch a DVD.

Natalie McMillan outside court Credit: ITV Granada

In interview she said: "I have never hurt my son on purpose...all because I wanted to watch a film."

She denied she had been under the influence of drugs but tests later showed she had taken heroin and valium.

McMillan was charged with manslaughter by gross negligence and child neglect but then changed her version of events as she shifted the blame to the boy's father.

Tributes for Kian outside his home Credit: ITV Granada

When giving evidence in her trial at Preston Crown Court, she claimed ex-partner Edward Hanratty, 41, was the person responsible for the television falling and that she was upstairs in bed when it happened.

She admitted guilt to neglect midway through the trial, while Hanratty also changed his plea to guilty on the same charge after he gave evidence.

The prosecution had alleged McMillan was responsible for the toppling television while Hanratty was passed out on the kitchen floor through drink and drugs.

She said she decided to accept the blame on his behalf from the moment she made the 999 call from the address in Scarlett Street because she was scared of him.

Prosecutor Suzanne Goddard QC said this was "nonsense" and that she was lying.

In his closing speech yesterday, Peter Wright QC, defending McMillan, told jurors they were not being asked to determine if his client was a good mother.

The relevant questions were: was she responsible for the television falling and if so; was her behaviour so grossly negligent that it was "truly exceptionally bad" rather than a mistake or a serious error of judgment.

"We say the evidence points away rather than to her being responsible. A not guilty verdict is not a vindication of Natalie McMillan or a dereliction of Kian McMillan."

– Peter Wright QC

The jury took less than four hours to reach its verdict.

McMillan, of Clarendon Road, Leeds, and Hanratty, of Dirkhill Road, Bradford, will both be sentenced on January 31.

The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC, told McMillan he wanted a pre-sentence report to find out more about her personal background.

He said all sentencing options remained available, including custody.

Hanratty was released on bail yesterday following his guilty plea.

Edward Hanratty outside court Credit: ITV Granada