January 2023

Father found guilty of killing baby son

A father from Barnsley has been found guilty of murdering his baby son.

Leon Mathias, 33, had been accused of shaking to death nine-week-old Hunter at their home in November 2018 in a “moment of frustration”.

A Sheffield Crown Court jury convicted him of murder on Monday after more than 27 hours of deliberations.

Mathias, of Stonebridge Lane, Great Houghton, was cleared of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. He will be sentenced on 2 February.

The trial, which began in November, heard extensive evidence from medical experts about injuries suffered by Hunter, who was taken to Barnsley Hospital in cardio-respiratory arrest on 30 November 2018.

He was transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, where he died three days later.

A medical examination found Hunter had suffered a bleed on the brain, swelling to the brain and extensive bleeding in the retinas of his eyes.

Prosecutor Robert Smith KC told the court the injuries were consistent with “vigorous shaking”.

Mathias, a labourer, who was described by friends and family as a loving father, had shaken his son “in a moment of frustration and irritation after a long day”, prosecutors said.

Mathias had denied shaking Hunter and said the infant “went floppy” in his arms while his partner and Hunter’s mother, Rebecca Higginbottom, was downstairs with a friend.

His defence team had argued his death could have been caused by a rare form of pneumonia.

But an intensive care doctor and a paediatrician called by the prosecution both said there was no evidence pneumonia had led to Hunter’s death.

Summing up earlier this month, judge Mrs Justice Christina Lambert told the jury their task was to determine whether Mathias was “the sort of person that would behave in a violent way to his own child”.

The jury, which retired to consider its verdict on 20 January, found Mathias guilty by a majority of 10 to two.