20/12/2012 13:13 GMT

Mother Natalie McMillan Cleared Of Killing Baby Son Kian As Five-Stone TV Fell On His Head

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.

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.

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.

Mr Wright said: "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."

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.

Hanratty also faces sentencing on January 31 for an offence of obtaining monies by deception which he had previously pleaded guilty to at Bradford Crown Court.

He was said to have conned £20,000 from a man over a period of time when he lied to him as he needed to pay off court fines.

The jury at Preston Crown Court heard McMillan dialled 999 in the early hours of December 6 to say she had been "messing around with the telly" when it had fallen.

She had noticed a lump on her son's head and he was not feeding.

When paramedics arrived at the family home, the boy was unconscious and blood was coming from his nose.

Miss Goddard said several ambulance staff recalled both parents appeared to be under the influence of drink or drugs and were seen to stagger with their eyes closing.

A police officer followed the couple as they were taken to hospital by ambulance with their gravely ill child.

She too thought they were intoxicated and also said she had to tell them both "more than once" to come inside the hospital while they smoked cigarettes outside, said the prosecutor.

The jury was told McMillan had refused to tell the police the names of members of her family so Kian could have someone with him in hospital after she was arrested.

Drug tests later confirmed McMillan had taken heroin and valium close to the time of the fateful incident and that Hanratty had used heroin and cocaine in the 24 hours prior.

Hanratty later told detectives the pair had bought valium tablets before the television incident.

A police search found valium tablets in the baby's cot, the jury heard.

Syringes, thought to be used to inject heroin, were discovered in a kitchen cupboard.

The pair had lived in Halifax until 2009 but McMillan ended the relationship and moved to Burnley to be closer to her family because she said Hanratty was violent and controlling.

But their relationship was rekindled despite the disapproval of McMillan's family and he effectively moved in with her.

Hanratty had previously had two children removed from his care with a different partner because of his drug problems.

As a consequence McMillan knew social services would be concerned and she attempted to hide the fact that he was living with her, the jury was told.

The court heard that numerous health care professionals who visited the household were satisfied that Kian was healthy and being well cared for.