Man accused of putting baby in tumble dryer told the tot’s mum how to ‘suffocate’ a child to ‘help them sleep’

Dundee Sheriff Court.
Dundee Sheriff Court.

A man accused of endangering the life of a baby by putting her in a tumble dryer and turning it on told the tot’s mum how to “suffocate” a child for a few seconds to “help them sleep”, a trial heard on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old single mother, from Arbroath, said Thomas Dunn gave her the advice and demonstrated how to do it while she was visiting him in his home.

She told the court: “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.'”

The mother was giving evidence at the trial of Dunn, who is accused of four charges of assaulting two children, including placing the woman’s daughter in a tumble dryer and switching it on.

In a statement to police on January 11 2018 she told detectives she had been visiting Dunn and his four-year-old son with her daughter, some time in late 2017.

The mother, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their children, said: “I went through to the bedroom and Tom came through with her [the baby daughter].

“He put her on the bed and immediately put his hand over her mouth as if to demonstrate what he had described.

“I went to grab her and he took his hand away. As I went to grab her he said ‘No.'”

Cross examined by advocate Niall McCluskey, defending Dunn, she denied the incidents were less serious than she had described.

Mr McCluskey asked: “Taking your duties as a mother seriously, you wouldn’t just want anyone to help you with your child, only someone responsible?”

She replied: “Yes.”

Mr McCluskey said she had made serious accusations against Dunn regarding two separate dates before she had again left her daughter in Dunn’s care on January 8 2018.

He said if things had happened in the way she said, she wouldn’t have thought him a responsible person.

H asked: “You wouldn’t have gone back?”

The mum replied: “Yes and no,” adding that she agreed she shouldn’t have gone back.

However, she said: “I wouldn’t falsely accuse someone of doing that, I’m not that kind of person. I did make a mistake going back but I was really struggling at the time. I was severely depressed and any help I got I was very grateful for.”

Dunn is alleged to have assaulted the baby to her severe injury and to the danger of her life twice in the space of three weeks at an address in Arbroath.

He is further alleged to have repeatedly assaulted another baby over the course of almost three years by putting his hand over the boy’s mouth and nose and pinching it, restricting his breathing.

It is first alleged that on various occasions between April 3 2015 and January 8 2018 he assaulted the first child, at a house in Arbroath – from birth to the age of 33 months – by pinching his nose and restricting his breathing.

Then, on an occasion between December 18 2017 and January 8 last year, at the same address, it is alleged that he assaulted the girl, then aged 13 months.

Prosecutors allege that he placed the tot in a tumble dryer and closed 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 third charge alleges that between those dates Dunn assaulted the same girl by placing his hand over her mouth and restricting her breathing.

He is finally alleged to have again assaulted the girl to her severe injury and the danger of her life on January 8 2018.

Dunn, 25, of Comrie Crescent, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, is said to have repeatedly struck her on the head and body, repeatedly struck her against an unknown object or objects and bit her on the arm.

The trial before Sheriff Alastair Brown and a jury continues.