Southampton mother jailed after shaking her six-week-old son to death

Mother-of-five, 28, is jailed for nine years for killing her six-week-old baby by shaking him so hard he suffered ‘catastrophic’ head injuries after claiming she was outside smoking cannabis when boy fell ill

  • Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, jailed over death of her six-week-old son Malakai Watts
  • She said she was smoking cannabis, looking on Facebook outside when he died 
  • He was rushed to hospital from two-bed flat in Hythe, Southampton, in Feb 2019
  • Post-mortem examination showed that Malakai died of a traumatic head injury 

A mother of five was today sentenced to nine years in prison for killing her six-week-old baby boy by shaking him so hard he suffered ‘catastrophic’ head injuries.  

Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, shook six-week-old Malakai Watts at her Hythe flat in Hants with such ‘severe force’ that doctors concluded he suffered a cardiac arrest.

She was today jailed for nine years over the manslaughter of her baby at Winchester Crown Court.

The court heard Cuthbertson had been in a furious row with her partner, car valeter Del Watts, the previous night and claimed she was smoking cannabis outside at the time of Malakai’s death. 

Malakai was ‘grey from head to toe’ when police arrived at Cuthbertson’s flat following her 999 call on February 2, 2019.

He was rushed from the two-bed property in Hythe to Southampton General Hospital, but tragically died four days later after he was taken off life support.

Jurors were told he died from a traumatic head injury and an examination showed he had several other injuries, including eight fractured ribs, with at least one being from a previous incident.  

Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28 was jailed for nine years after shaking her six-week-old toddler to death in her two-bedroom flat in Hythe, Hants, in February 2019

Ms Cuthberston had rowed with her partner Del Watts (pictured) the previous night and claimed to have been smoking cannabis at the time of Malakai’s death

The trial heard that Cuthbertson had argued with her partner, Del Watts, the previous night.

After he had left for his work as a car valet, the defendant told the court she had gone outside their home to smoke a cannabis joint and returned to find Malakai seriously ill and blue in the face.

Cuthbertson told the court she went outside to smoke cannabis before coming back in to wake the twins for their morning feed.

She said she went outside and shut the door while she smoked the cannabis for about 15 minutes but believed she would have been able to hear the babies if they cried.

When she went back in she said she saw ‘straight away’ that Malakai’s face was blue, picked him up and called 999. 

The judge, Mr Justice Spencer, told Cuthbertson: ‘Only you know what really happened.

‘It’s plain from all from the evidence that you habitually smoked cannabis to calm yourself down.

‘The uncomfortable truth is you were stressed by the row with your partner and took it out on Malakai.

‘When you shook him and inflicted those injuries, you were taking out on this tiny baby your anger and annoyance with Del Watts.’

Killer mother Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, smoking outside court as she awaited the verdict earlier this month

Cuthbertson had lied in court that she had been outside when her son had died

Mr Watts, who was Malakai’s father, said: ‘This has changed my life. I have lost my home, family and job and nothing makes sense, why Chelsea did this to Malakai.

‘I find it extremely difficult that she has never given an explanation about what happened or why she has never shown any remorse and tried to blame me.

‘Malakai has had his whole life taken from him and I will never see him grow up, normal things like seeing him smile, going to school, kicking a football, riding a bike.

‘She has taken him from me in a terrible way which has left me devastated and I do not think I will ever recover from this loss.’

Rebecca Cox, of Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said after the hearing: ‘After an incredibly sensitive and thorough investigation undertaken by the police, the CPS were able to use expert forensic evidence and mobile phone data to prove that Chelsea Cuthbertson was responsible for the devastating injuries sustained by Malakai Watts.

‘The death of a baby in any circumstances is an utter tragedy and our thoughts are firmly with Malakai’s family.’

Cuthbertson had one child from a previous relationship and then met car valet Dell Watts, who was the father of Malakai, his twin, and two other children.

Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, told jurors there was an ‘escalating resentment’ in the couple’s ‘love-hate’ relationship which was evident in text messages Cuthbertson had sent to Mr Watts.

She said Cuthbertson was frustrated with Mr Watts because she felt he did not help around the house and with the children, particularly when he returned to work shortly after Malakai was born.

Some of those text messages were read out in court by Ms Howes, with Cuthbertson writing ‘I’m sick of doing everything and being in all the time’, ‘my home isn’t a hotel and it’s just going back to when you lived here before’ and ‘people make time for their family, you never do’.

Ms Howes QC added: ‘These texts indicated an escalating resentment towards Dell Watts.’

The couple argued the night before Malakai stopped breathing and in the morning shortly before Cuthbertson called for an ambulance, it was heard.

Ms Howes QC said: ‘Her resentment and anger reached such a point that morning that she took it out on Malakai, squeezing him around the chest, shaking him and then causing an impact to his head.

‘Her intention at that time must have been to cause him harm even if the catalyst was to take out her resentment on him.’

Chelsea Cuthbertson, 28, had denied killing Malakai Watts but was convicted of manslaughter

Cuthbertson said that on the night before Malakai was taken ill she smoked a cannabis joint with her partner Del Watts and drank some wine

Cuthbertson previously told the court: ‘I was distraught. I have never seen a child blue before. I have never given CPR to anyone let alone a baby.

‘That whole day was just crazy, that morning when I had to do the CPR. It felt like a lifetime.’

She previously told the court she would smoke cannabis every day because ‘it chills me out’.

Despite admitting the drug ‘mongs you out’ she continued to smoke regularly while caring for her eldest daughter as well as Malakai and his twin.

Before Malakai’s death, Cuthbertson sent texts complaining she was ‘sick’ of being in all the time with her kids and that her baby was ‘whingey’ and ‘hard work.’

In a text to her friend five days before the baby was injured, Cuthbertson said: ‘(Malakai) is so whingey, definitely hard work but (the other twin) is easy – I would cry if they were both like it.’

The court heard this text was sent on January 28, 2019 – around the same time that the post-mortem report showed Malakai suffered a rib injury.

In one text to Mr Watts, Cuthbertson described another of her children as ‘a little cow’ and a ‘little sh**.’

It read: ‘(The child) might have a bruise on her cheek tomorrow – the little cow took my glitter eye shadow.

‘I went to take her to her bedroom but the little sh** was all slippy so I dropped her and she fell on her face but on her cheek side.’

The court heard Cuthbertson had previously given evidence to a Family Court that she felt abandoned, exploited and left alone with the children.

She also spoke openly about assaulting her first born child when he was just six months old.

She admitted pushing down on his forehead ‘so he stopped crying’, so hard it left a red mark and he had to be taken to hospital.

She described how she did not tell anyone what happened at first and claimed the red mark on her son’s forehead was caused by a toy dropping on his head.

When she came clean about the incident she was diagnosed with post-natal depression and was dealt with by way of a community resolution. 

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