Nursery deputy manager guilty of killing baby girl after strapping her face down at Cheadle nursery

  • Granada Reports journalist Emma Sweeney was in court as the verdict was delivered

A nursery deputy manager has been found guilty of killing a baby girl after she placed her face down, tightly swaddled and strapped to a bean bag for more than an hour and a half.

Nine-month-old Genevieve Meehan was found blue and unresponsive at the Tiny Toes Nursery on the afternoon of 9 May 2022 in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

Kate Roughley, 37, was accused of manslaughter by ill-treatment. She denied the charge and an alternative count of child cruelty.

But, after six hours of deliberations a jury a jury of six men and six women unanimously found Roughley guilty of manslaughter.

She was remanded in custody ahead of her sentencing on Wednesday, 22 May.

Following the verdict, Genevieve's father John Meehan said: "It has been just over two years since our beautiful and wonderful daughter’s life was taken from her. Genevieve’s loss has destroyed our family. We grieve for her every day.

"Genevieve wasn’t just a baby, she was a person. She loved to laugh, to play with her tambourine, to eat Spaghetti Bolognese and to be with her big sister. She was kind, affectionate, independent and mischievous.

"We will never accept the cruelty of her life being taken away. That we will not get to hear her speak her first words or watch her grow up is impossible to comprehend. Genevieve could have done anything she wanted to. She had her whole life to live and was loved so dearly by her family.

"Our beautiful daughter deserves to be remembered for the wonderful person she is, not the nature of her death. She deserves to have a legacy so that her life can inspire others. As a family, we will work tirelessly to ensure she has the legacy she deserves."

Genevieve's father, John Meehan, reacted to the verdict outside of court.

Manchester Crown Court heard Roughley, who had ‘taken against’ Genevieve and shown ‘hostility’ towards her, calling her a 'whinger' and a 'diva'.

She then placed Genevieve face down, tightly wrapped and fastened to a bean bag with a harness for more than 90 minutes.

Roughley, of Heaton Norris, Stockport, later found her blue and unresponsive, raising the alarm.

But Genevieve, known as Gigi, died later that day in hospital despite attempts by staff and paramedics to revive her.

Kate Roughley was found unanimously guilty of manslaughter. Credit: ITV Granada Reports

Opening the case, prosecutor Peter Wright KC told jurors that strapping a child to a bean bag on their front was an “obvious recipe for disaster”.

Mr Wright said Genevieve was left virtually immobilised and face down from 1:35pm to 3:12pm, and that her cries, distress and efforts to move or reposition herself were ignored.

CCTV footage from within the baby room was watched by jurors, some in tears, as Genevieve lay in a prone position for more than 90 minutes before she was discovered.

The prosecution said Roughley’s interest in Genevieve’s wellbeing during that period was “sporadic and, at best, fleeting”.

Mr Wright said the youngster’s desperate fight for survival was clear but her crying and the thrashing and writhing of her body were routinely and repeatedly ignored.

Roughley paid “lip service” to any meaningful checks and Genevieve’s wellbeing until it was too late, he said.

Her actions were said to be fuelled by an “illogical and disturbing hostility” towards the youngster which was revealed on further CCTV footage from 5 and 6 May.

She was subjected to “rough handling”, said the prosecution, by Roughley, who called her “stress head” and on one occasion told her: “Genevieve go home. Do you have to be so loud and constant? Change the record.”

Roughley sang to her “stop whingeing” and “Genevieve go home. Please, I’m even asking nicely. You are driving me bananas and I’m not wearing pyjamas”.

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

Genevieve Meehan was being cared for at the Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle. Credit: MEN Media

Pathologist Dr Philip Lumb told jurors he considered the cause of Genevieve’s death was a combination of asphyxia and various pathophysiological stresses including upper airway obstruction.

After viewing the CCTV Peter Wright KC asked Dr Lumb: “What did you conclude from your examination?”

The witness said: “It showed that Genevieve Meehan had been put in a very unsafe sleeping environment which, in my opinion, was responsible for her death.

“She was unable to escape from that position due to the swaddling and strapping.”

Dr Lumb said in these circumstances an infant would become exhausted as they struggled to move.

He said he had not identified any natural disease condition and that post-mortem examination of the youngster’s brain indicated she had not died because of some “sudden and unexpected event”.

Genevieve was 9-months-old when she died. Credit: Family pictures

The defendant’s case was that Genevieve’s death was a “terrible and unavoidable accident” and not the result of any unlawful acts.

Roughley joined Tiny Toes straight from college at the age of 18 and said she gained most of her knowledge of working with babies and young children from her colleagues.

Giving evidence as Genevieve’s parents, John Meehan and Katie Wheeler, watched on from the public gallery, she said she was “devastated” by the tragedy and felt responsible as the child was in her care but did not feel her actions were the cause of her death.

Roughley said she treated Genevieve no differently from any other child as she told the jury she placed the youngster on her side and that she remained in that position, with her face visible throughout, until she made the grim discovery.

The nursery is now under a new name and new management.

Following the verdict, Karen Tonge, Specialist Prosecutor for CPS North West’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “Genevieve Meehan was nine months and 21 days old when her life was so cruelly cut short.

“The CCTV footage from the nursery’s baby room showed a complete lack of care and tenderness towards Genevieve, and a total disregard for her welfare. For some inexplicable reason, Kate Roughley had taken a dislike to Genevieve, and this was clear for all to hear and see.

“Roughley, a trained and experienced nursery worker, must have known the dangers of placing Genevieve face down on a bean bag. She was tightly swaddled, buckled in and had a blanket placed over her. She was left unattended, and her cries and obvious signs of distress were repeatedly ignored.

“Kate Roughley was entrusted to take care of Genevieve. It is difficult to comprehend how someone in such a position of trust could have such a complete disregard for a child’s wellbeing and life. Her actions and inactions have had devastating consequences.

“I can’t begin to imagine the toll this has taken and will continue to take on Genevieve’s family. My thoughts are with them all.”