A mother and father have been jailed for a total of 18 years for causing the death of their nine-day-old baby who ‘literally had her life shaken from her’.
Ava Grace Nolan was found unresponsive by paramedics at her family home in Nelson, Lancashire, on August 16, 2017.
She was pronounced dead in hospital shortly after midnight and a post-mortem examination revealed Ava died of a ‘catastrophic’ head injury, likely to have been caused by forceful shaking.
Further investigation found Ava, who weighed just six pounds 10 oz, had also suffered a separate brain injury and a broken leg, which she is believed to have suffered in the days before her death.
Her parents Sophie Nash, 31, and Daniel Nolan, 30, blamed one another for Ava’s injuries and neither of them took responsibility for harming her, Preston Crown Court heard.
On Friday, Nolan was jailed for 10 years and his former partner Nash was handed a term of eight years after they were both found guilty by a jury of causing or allowing the death of a child. They both denied the charge.
Sophie Nash (right), 31, and Daniel Nolan (left), 30, have been jailed for a total of 18 years for causing the death of their nine-day-old baby Ava Grace Nolan
Ava Grace Nolan was found unresponsive by paramedics at her family home in Nelson, Lancashire, on August 16, 2017. Pictured: Her mother Sophie Nash
Nolan was also convicted of causing or allowing serious physical injury to a child, relating to the shocking injuries Ava sustained in the days before she died.
Nash had also been found guilty of the same charge and an additional count of cruelty to a person under 16.
Mr David McLachlan QC, prosecuting, said Ava had sustained a fractured femur and brain injury in the days before a second fatal head injury occurred.
He told the jury: ‘We make it absolutely clear to you that we cannot say who in fact did what.
‘We cannot say out of Nash or Nolan, who inflicted the injuries in this case, however the prosecution say that it was one of them and could not have been anyone else.’
When she was born on August 8, 2017, Ava was how you would expect a ‘fit and healthy’ newborn baby to be, the prosecutor said.
The court heard Nolan and Nash ignored professional support from midwives and only allowed one to visit their newborn baby when they were threatened with the police.
Midwives had attended the house on August 12, 13 and 14, but entry was unsuccessful on each of those occasions, the court was told.
Ava’s (pictured) post-mortem examination revealed that she died of a ‘catastrophic’ head injury, likely to have been caused by forceful shaking
Her parents Sophie Nash, 31, and Daniel Nolan (pictured), 30, blamed one another for Ava’s injuries and neither of them took responsibility for harming the newborn baby
When the midwife finally made contact with the family, she was content that Ava was happy and healthy, noting only that she had a slight yellow tinge, which could have been indicative of jaundice.
Mr McLachlan added: ‘The prosecution’s case is that shortly after that visit, Ava sustained her first brain injury and also a fractured femur.
‘In reality the next day was to be the last day of Ava’s life.’
Shortly after 5pm on August 15, a police officer conducted a welfare check at the address, having been contacted by concerned midwives and once again all seemed fine, though it was noted that Ava was whingeing.
Later that night, Nolan called the Burnley Birthing Centre and said Ava was not feeling well and that her ‘breathing wasn’t right’.
The midwife on the phone told Nolan to call an ambulance, the court heard.
Paramedics arrived within moments to an unresponsive Ava, who later stopped breathing.
Attempts in the ambulance and at the hospital to revive Ava were unsuccessful. The nine-day-old baby was pronounced dead shortly after midnight on August 16.
A post-mortem examination revealed Ava had two injuries to her brain, bruising to her body and a fractured femur.
Medical experts concluded the bleeds to her brain were most likely caused by shaking.
Nash would also routinely pick Ava up by her babygrow resulting in her head flopping back, the court heard.
Nash, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism, admitted failing to engage with healthcare professionals, but added: ‘I was getting overwhelmed with groups and stuff. It was getting too much and it was just a dumb mistake.’
Mr McLachlan told the court that the life had been ‘literally shaken out’ of Ava, and said she ‘didn’t stand much of a chance’.
He added: ‘The prosecution say that it is on them [Nolan and Nash] and they are responsible for her death.
Investigation found Ava (left) had also suffered a separate brain injury and a broken leg, which she is believed to have suffered in the days before her death. Pictured right: Nash and Nolan
Nash and Nolan have been jailed for a total of 18 years after being found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child at Preston Crown Court (pictured). They both denied the charge
‘On their watch Ava Grace Nolan sustained severe, non-accidental traumatic injuries.
‘At least one of them caused the injuries and the other one knew.
‘The final injury was to cause death when her life was literally shaken out of her. She really didn’t stand much of a chance.’
Speaking after the verdict, Detective Chief Inspector Jill Johnston, from Lancashire Police, said they were not able to prove which parent inflicted the injuries that caused Ava’s death, but said they were ‘both ultimately responsible’.
She continued: ‘Neither parent has ever accepted responsibility for harming Ava, with both Nolan and Nash blaming each other.
‘Whilst we have been unable to prove which one inflicted those horrendous injuries which caused their baby daughter’s death, what we have been able to prove is that they are both ultimately responsible.
‘One of them shook baby Ava to death and the other allowed it to happen.
‘Neither of them sought medical assistance for the initial injuries that Ava suffered in those very short days of her life and I suspect that they delayed seeking medical help on the evening of her death, until it was certainly too late.
‘Nolan and Nash were blessed with a healthy baby girl, a newborn baby who they should have loved, cared for and protected from harm.
‘To think that they are responsible for her death is inconceivable.
‘The couple admitted having an extremely volatile and violent relationship, exposing baby Ava to considerable risk, which ultimately proved fatal.’
The pair will be sentenced on Friday.