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Inquest ordered into child's death after criminal trial failed to provide 'proper answers'

Cárágh Walsh was 14-weeks-old when she died as a result of head injuries at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in February 2014. An inquest into her death will take place next year
Marie Louise McConville

AN inquest will be held into the death of a three month-old baby girl from west Belfast because a criminal trial related to the case did not "properly answer" how she sustained the head injuries which killed her.

Cárágh Walsh, who was born in October 2013, died 14 weeks later on February 7, 2014 in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The child, who had been at home at Glasvey Park in Twinbrook with her father, Christopher O'Neill, when she fell ill and was taken to hospital. However the infant died two days later as a result of head injuries, including severe brain damage.

Following her death, Cárágh's father, Christopher O'Neill was charged with her murder. He was later acquitted by a jury at Craigavon Crown Court.

Yesterday a preliminary hearing was held into the child's death at Laganside Courts.

During the hearing, the coroner, Joe McCrisken consulted with legal counsel for both Mr O'Neill and Cárágh's mother, Tammie Louise Walsh.

It is expected that a full inquest will take place next April.

Mr McCrisken later released his written submission outlining his reasons for ordering an inquest in the case.

The coroner said it was his view "that the criminal trial of Christopher O'Neill, did not provide sufficient answers to the family or the public".

"It seems to me that Cárágh's mother can legitimately claim that there has been no public finding which explains Cárágh's death," said Mr McCrisken.

"This is because a jury found Christopher O'Neill not guilty and to do that did not have to provide any sort of explanation".

Mr McCrisken added: "Although the evidence was tested in detail, no proper independent conclusion has ever been provided explaining the cause of Cárágh's death.

"The focus at the inquest will be on establishing, not just the medical cause of Cárágh's death, which we know to be head injuries, but also the reason for those head injuries".

Mr McCrisken said he believed there to be "sufficient cause" to hold an inquest.

"Cárágh Walsh was a 14-week-old member of our community and it is right that when a member of our community dies suddenly or in suspicious circumstances that an explanation is provided for the death.

"It is right that her family know, as far as possible, how she died".

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