A man who put his friend’s defenceless 13-month-old baby in a tumble dryer and turned it on – before going on to carry out a horror attack on the tot that left her horrifically injured – was today told he faces years in jail.
“Monstrous” Thomas Dunn was convicted of two charges of culpably and recklessly putting the girl in the machine and of assaulting her at an address in Arbroath following a week-long trial.
Dundee Sheriff Court heard it was “only luck” that the girl survived injuries that included two fractures to her skull.
Dunn admitted he had “assisted” the girl into the machine – but claimed she had already started to climb in and that the machine had activated accidentally.
But a jury deliberated for little over an hour before finding him guilty of the charge – as well as one of brutally assaulting the baby by repeatedly striking her on the head and body, striking her against an “object” and biting her.
A sheriff told Dunn he had behaved with “utter indifference” towards the girl and carried out a “monstrous” attack – and that the maximum five years available as a sentence in the sheriff court wasn’t enough punishment.
He added: “Only by good fortune have you not been in the High Court on a charge of murder.”
The trial earlier heard the baby’s 19-year-old mother tell the court how Dunn was a “friend” who helped her with her children to “give her a break”.
Describing the tumble dryer incident she said Dunn was playing with the tot and then joked about putting her in the tumble dryer – but didn’t think he was serious.
But moments later she turned her back and heard the machine activate – followed by two loud thumps as the tot was flung about the drum.
Asked by procurator fiscal depute Nicola Gillespie to describe the events, she replied: “I had my back turned and I heard a switch on the wall. I heard a door closing and I heard the rotation.
“I turned around and saw her in it and I ran across to open it up but he got there first and opened it and pulled her out.
“She was screaming. I tried to get her but he wouldn’t let me, he just walked out of the room with her. She wouldn’t stop crying.
“I asked him about five times to give her to me, I was trying to be calm, saying please give me her back.”
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She later told how Dunn once told her how he could “suffocate” a child to “help them sleep”, adding: “It came out of nowhere, he said: ‘If kids find it hard to sleep you suffocate them by placing your hand over their nose and mouth for a number of seconds until they go drowsy.’
“I was shocked, I said ‘That’s not right.'”
Dunn later subjected the girl to an horrific assault that led to the girl suffering two fractures to her skull.
Medics told the court that “only luck” prevented the girl from dying from injuries inflicted with “considerable force”.
One of the fractures to the rear of her head was depressed and a circular piece of bone narrowly missed trapping the vein which drained blood away from the brain, the surgeon told Dundee Sheriff Court.
Mr Jayaratnam Jayamohan, a consultant at a hospital in Oxford, said the injury was not life-threatening in this case, but added: “That’s from luck.”
Asked by fiscal depute Nicola Gillespie if the injuries would have required two separate “significant impacts,” he replied: “Yes.”
Giving evidence in his own defence, Dunn said: “I didn’t know the switch was on, it would’ve been the pin that activated the safety switch when it touched it.
“She was already climbing into it and I tucked her leg in. I closed the door but not fully, it wasn’t like properly shut.
“It wasn’t long, it wasn’t like minutes she was in it.”
Defence advocate Niall McCluskey, in his closing speech, said: “It was tomfoolery that simply went awry, it was daftness, reprehensible and irresponsible, but not criminal.”
But fiscal depute Nicola Gillespie said Dunn had offered no explanation that fitted with those serious injuries, and added: “He has been outwitted by the expertise and brilliance of five doctors.
“They all said the injuries were non accidental.
“The forensic neurosurgeon said he believed the injuries happened at the same time as the brain malfunction, on January 8. They happened in his care and it was deliberate.
“The only thing he can’t give explanations for are the most serious charges.”
Dunn was convicted of on an occasion between December 18, 2017 and January 8 2018, at an address in Arbroth, culpably and recklessly placing the tot in a tumble dryer and closing the door, causing the machine to activate and the inner drum to rotate to the girl’s severe injury and the danger of her life.
A second charge states he assaulted the girl to her severe injury and the danger of her life on January 8, 2018.
A jury found Dunn, 25, of St Ninians Place in Brechin, repeatedly struck her on the head and body, repeatedly struck her against an unknown object or objects and bit her on the arm.
At the close of the Crown case a third assault charge allegedly on the girl and a further charge of assaulting a young boy from birth to 33 months was withdrawn.
The tumble dryer charge was reduced from an assault rap to a charge of culpable and reckless conduct before being put to the jury.
Defence advocate Niall McCluskey reserved his mitigation for a later sentencing date.
Sheriff Alastair Brown deferred sentence for social work background reports, remanded Dunn in custody meantime and remitted the case to the High Court for sentencing.
The sheriff said: “The jury in a careful and discriminating verdict have found you guilty of behaving towards the child with utter indifference for her safety.
“I interpret the verdict at best that you assisted her into the tumble dryer and closed the door whereas what you should have been doing as a responsible adult was stopping her.
“That in itself would have deserved a lengthy prison sentence.”
Turning to the later assault he added: “You must have hit that little girl extremely hard at least twice in order to inflict catastrophic damage to her.
“Only by good fortune have you not been in the High Court on a charge of murder.
“The maximum sentence open to me is five years but I consider the assault charge so monstrous on its own – and taken in conjunction with the other charge – my powers are not adequate and I am remitting you to the High Court for sentencing.”