Mother’s teenage partner caused baby’s death, Crown Court jury told

Carl Alesbrook was aged 16 when he is alleged to have caused fatal brain damage by shaking four-month-old Elijah Shemwell.

The trial continues at Derby Crown Court
The trial continues at Derby Crown Court (Rui Vieira/PA)

A four-month-old baby was shaken to death by his mother’s 16-year-old partner after suffering rib and limb fractures and whiplash-type injuries, a court has heard.

Carl Alesbrook, now aged 19, is alleged to have killed Elijah Shemwell around seven weeks after meeting the child’s mother, India Shemwell, in November 2021.

Opening the case against Alesbrook at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Vanessa Marshall KC said medical evidence showed Elijah suffered brain damage or subdural bleeding from shaking on at least three separate occasions, including New Year’s Day and January 2 2022.

Elijah Shemwell, who died aged four months in January 2022
Elijah Shemwell, who died aged four months in January 2022 (Derbyshire Constabulary/PA)

Alesbrook, of Upper Greenhill Gardens, Matlock, denies murder and two counts of causing grievous bodily harm relating to alleged attacks on Elijah between November 18 2021 and January 2 2022, three days before his death at Nottingham’s Queen’s Medical Centre.

Alleging that Elijah was injured when Alesbrook was left alone with the baby at Shemwell’s home in Acorn Drive, Belper, Derbyshire, Ms Marshall told jurors India had separated from the baby’s father but “remained emotionally and sexually involved” with him.

Ms Marshall told the jury: “Between the months of mid-November 2021 and early January 2022 Elijah Shemwell, only four-months-old, was left by his mother India Shemwell in this defendant Carl Alesbrook’s care.

“And rather than protect him, it is the prosecution’s case that instead, this defendant shook Elijah on at least two occasions, resulting in symptoms of brain damage or dysfunction and subdural bleeding, prior to a final shake on the 2nd of January, which caused catastrophic head injuries and his premature death a few days later.

“You will also hear members of the jury that in addition to the head trauma, this defendant caused rib and limb fractures to Elijah’s body, one to two days before his admission to hospital on the 2nd of January.”

The court heard that the evidence against Alesbrook includes numerous messages that the prosecution say “may well have caused this young defendant some understandable frustration at the uncertainty of the status of his relationship” with India.

Explaining the issues for the jury, the prosecutor added: “It may well be that it is not the cause of death which is the key issue in this case but rather who caused Elijah’s death.

“Because you will hear that when the defendant was interviewed by the police on several occasions after his arrest, that he denied inflicting any injuries on Elijah or harming him by shaking.”

India, aged 21 at the time death of her son’s death and now aged 23, was described by Ms Marshall as “a thoroughly inadequate mother” who both generally and specifically neglected Elijah and failed to seek prompt medical attention for him on both January 1 and 2.

But she added: “Whilst the prosecution heavily criticise Miss Shemwell for this neglect towards Elijah, it is not the prosecution’s case that she caused any of the injuries.”

After showing the panel a mobile phone video of Elijah allegedly struggling for breath shortly before his admission to hospital, the prosecutor said India dialled 999 at 10.33pm on January 2 and told the operator: “I’ve just come back from the shop and my four-month-old isn’t breathing very well and he’s gone pale and limp.”

The court was told that in the opinion of a consultant forensic pathologist, “in addition to shaking, there had been impacts to the face, either as the result of blows being delivered, or Elijah striking a surface.”

In short, the jury heard, the pathologist will say there is no plausible explanation for “the constellation of injuries present” other than from an assault.

Ms Marshall continued: “The prosecution is confident that a careful review of the evidence in this case puts this defendant alone with Elijah moments before the critical incidents… so as to make it inexplicable on the basis of coincidence that it was not this defendant who was responsible for causing Elijah’s injuries and death.”

The trial continues.