Nursery nurse denies she ‘persecuted’ baby girl who died

Credit: MEN Media

A nursery nurse has denied she "persecuted" a baby girl she called a "whinger" and a "diva" before allegedly unlawfully killing her by ill-treatment.

Kate Roughley, 37, is accused of the manslaughter of nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan, who died following an incident at the former Tiny Toes Nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

Ms Roughley, deputy manager at the nursery, is alleged to have swaddled the baby in a blanket and put her to sleep on her front onto the bean bag on May 9 2022.

She then fastened a strap across Genevieve's back before she later placed another cover over her, prosecutors allege.

Staff and then paramedics attempted to revive Genevieve, known to her family as Gigi, but her condition was irreversible and she died later the same afternoon in hospital.

The prosecution at Manchester Crown Court say the youngster died from a combination of asphyxia and pathophysiological stress after being placed face down, tightly swaddled.

It is alleged Roughley then ignored the cries and distress of Genevieve, and showed “sporadic” and “fleeting” interest in her wellbeing, for one hours and 37 minutes until she made the grim discovery.

Kate Roughley denies manslaughter and an alternative count of child cruelty Credit: ITV News

Genevieve’s parents, John Meehan and Katie Wheeler, sat in court behind Roughley as she gave evidence on the second anniversary of their daughter’s death on 9 May 2022.

The events of the day in the baby room were captured on the nursery’s CCTV and have been shown to the jury, along with footage from 5 and 6 May.

The Crown says the lack of affection shown to Genevieve by the defendant was “not merely visible but palpable” and that she was the subject of “illogical and disturbing hostility”.

Peter Wright KC, cross-examining, said to the defendant: “I am going to suggest that the contents of that CCTV demonstrated that you persecuted that child, Genevieve?”

Roughley said: “That’s not true.”

Mr Wright said: “And whatever she did or didn’t do was never going to be satisfactory to you?”

Roughley repeated: “That’s not true.”

Mr Wright said: “And I’m going to suggest that you allowed your dislike of a nine-month-old child to manifest itself in ill-treatment that you meted out to her?”

Roughley said: “I would never not like a nine-month-old baby. So to say I disliked her is far from the truth.”

Mr Wright said: “What attracted you to working with children?”

Roughley said: “I had always wanted to work with children since secondary school. It was nice learning different children’s personalities and watching them grow.”

Mr Wright said: “Did you therefore like to establish a relationship with the children you were caring for?”

“Yes I did,” replied the defendant.

Mr Wright said: “Did you feel you achieved that with Genevieve?”

Roughley replied: “I do, yes. Genevieve was always happy when I was sat next to her on the play mat. She tended to get upset when I moved away.

"I feel if we had not bonded then it would have been the other way round and Genevieve would have been upset when I was close by, not when I moved away.”

A former worker told the court there had been "too many children" attending Tiny Toes Nursery. Credit: ITV News

The defendant said she and other members of staff would often engage with children by singing rhymes to them.

Mr Wright said: “What rhymes with ‘whinger’ or ‘diva’, or other such remarks you have made to her?”

Roughley replied: “I would not say diva is malicious. It’s just when children are showing their personality off. Genevieve would not have been the only child I would have called a diva.

“Often we would say to children ‘stop whingeing’. This was not shouted at the children or said in any malicious way. They were just passing comments through the working day.”

Mr Wright said: “But on the days that we viewed, your remarks appear to be directed to Genevieve?”

Roughley said: “I feel the remarks you have shown on CCTV are just picking up on Genevieve.

"Most of the time those remarks were made in rhymes, they were not shouted at Genevieve.”

The defendant said she did not see Genevieve in “discomfort and distress” on the bean bag.

Mr Wright said: “Miss Roughley, we have all seen the video, the CCTV, in which there are both visual signs of her movements – and we can hear – and distress, can’t we?”

The defendant said: “This was not distress. This is how Genevieve went to sleep in previous times at the nursery.”

Mr Wright went on: “What we can also see, I suggest, is that they coincide with one another.

"She is moving violently and at the same time you can hear her in distress, can’t you?”

Roughley said: “Again these noises and movements were no different as to how Genevieve previously went to sleep.”

Mr Wright said: “You put her face down on the bean bag, didn’t you?”

Roughley said: “No I did not. Genevieve was on her side.”

Mr Wright said: “From the moment that you discovered that child’s lifeless form you have sought to conceal what you did, haven’t you? ”

The defendant replied: “That’s not true.”

Mr Wright said: “Do you consider that Genevieve’s death was avoidable?”

Roughley said: “I feel that if I had checked on her a couple of seconds or minutes earlier it may have been different. However she was sleeping in the bean bag like many children had done before.

“It was common practice for children to sleep in the bean bag bed. There were no actions taken differently this day.”

Mr Wright said: “So do you accept any responsibility for her death?”

Roughley said: “I feel responsible in the fact that Genevieve was in my care that day. However, I don’t feel my actions were the reason for the death.”

Genevieve was initially put to sleep in a cot on the morning of 9 May, the court heard.

Mr Wright said: “What we see from the CCTV is you picking up the bottom end of the blanket with which she has been swaddled and you literally roll her out of it like a roll of carpet, don’t you?”

Roughley said: “This didn’t hurt Genevieve in any way. There is often movement when getting children out of cots.”

Mr Wright said: “She didn’t sleep to your satisfaction, did she?”

The defendant said: “She didn’t sleep for very long, no.

“When putting her down on the play mat it was a bit more rushed and impatient than I would liked it to have been. I didn’t realise it at the time.”

Mr Wright said: “The manner in which you put that child on the play mat was a demonstration of your irritability with her, wasn’t it?”

Roughley said: “This is not true.”

Mr Wright said: “Genevieve continued to be upset and you uttered the ultimate threat, I suggest, when you said ‘no, you are going on the bean bag in a minute’.”

Roughley said: “This is not a threat. She slept better on the bean bag the week before.”

Mr Wright said: “Then you say ‘in fact you are staying up’. Were you punishing this child?”

The defendant said: “I was not punishing this child in any way. I was trying to find the best solution for her being upset at that time,”

Mr Wright said: “How did Genevieve suffer asphyxiation?”

Roughley replied: “I’m not sure. All I know is when checked Genevieve each and every time. Even the last time, her face was always visible and never face down.”

The defence says Genevieve died as a result of a “tragic and unavoidable accident”.

If further questioning, Mr Wright said to Roughley: “My suggestion to you is that you deliberately pinned that child face down in that bean bag.”

Roughley said: “No, she was not pinned face down.”

Mr Wright said: “What you did was not out of concern for her welfare.”

Roughley said: “It was, yes.”

Mr Wright said: “It was for your own selfish self-interest, wasn’t it?”

“That’s not true at all,” the defendant told the court.

The prosecutor went on: “This was an act of restraint, not an act of kindness.”

Roughley replied: “Genevieve was not restrained. It was a slack harness.”

Mr Wright said: “And you left her to struggle.”

Roughley said: “She was constantly being watched visually. If I had any concerns I would have moved her.”

Mr Wright: “And to cry.”

The defendant said: “She cried no differently that afternoon than any other time she went to sleep during her visits to the nursery.”

Mr Wright said: “And to try desperately to save herself.”

Roughley said: “Genevieve’s movements were no different in the bean bag than in the cot that morning.”

Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, denies manslaughter by ill-treatment and an alternative count of child cruelty. The trial continues on Monday.