Woman stabbed newborn baby to death while boyfriend played Xbox game, court told

Police at the scene
Police at the scene

A mental healthcare boss stabbed her newborn daughter shortly after giving birth in her bathroom and then placed the body in plastic bags and put it in her kitchen bin, a jury has heard.

Rachel Tunstill (26) was said to be up to 37 weeks' pregnant when she delivered Mia Kelly at her home in Burnley, while her long-term partner Ryan Kelly (31) was unwittingly playing X-Box games in the living room.

Forklift driver Mr Kelly was previously told by the defendant she recently had a miscarriage and he thought she was still suffering from the effects when she came out bloodied from the bathroom of their second floor flat on the evening of January 14th, the court was told.

He told Preston Crown Court she had been in the bathroom for two to three hours and the only noise he had heard was a sound "like squeezing water out of a plastic bottle".

At some stage his girlfriend asked him for a pair of scissors which he passed to her through the doorway and she replied: "Thanks babe."

In excess of 15 puncture wounds were later found on examination of Mia's body with traces of the newborn's blood found on the same pair of scissors, the jury heard.

Opening the prosecution, Louise Blackwell QC, said Tunstill was someone who had difficulties in her early childhood but went on to achieve a degree in psychology and a master's degree in forensic psychology.

She was working as a deputy manager at a local residential home for people with mental health issues at the time of her daughter's death.

Miss Blackwell said she only told a very limited group of people about her pregnancy, Mr Kelly and her employers at Healycare Ltd, and that she was in the early stages.

The prosecutor said: "Consequently she had not been to hospital, had not sought medical advice or assistance with that pregnancy at all."

Tunstill eventually went to Burnley General Hospital on the morning of January 16th where she told staff she was nine weeks' pregnant, had suffered bleeding and was concerned she had had a miscarriage.

On examination, said Miss Blackwell, medics found her pregnancy had in fact been very nearly full term as part of the umbilical cord was still attached to the uterus.

Tunstill explained the baby had looked blue and she could not find a pulse, the court heard.

She then placed the baby on the bathroom floor while she sorted herself out and then "bagged up" the baby before she put her in the bin.

Police were called to the hospital and Tunstill told them she did not know if the baby delivered was a boy or a girl but she believed the foetus was born dead and had noticed blood was coming out of the baby's neck.

Police searched her flat in Wellington Court and found two plastic bags in a kitchen bin which contained the baby's body.

Miss Blackwell said a large amount of blood was also discovered in the bags and a puncture wound to the back of the child was "immediately obvious".

In October or November 2016 Mr Kelly was told by Tunstill she was pregnant but the couple had not decided whether to keep the child.

She later informed him before Christmas that she had miscarried, it was said.

Mr Kelly, who described his girlfriend as being "very secretive", said he believed what he had been told although he noticed she began putting on weight afterwards.

Police examined the defendant's mobile phone and iPad and found internet searches relating to being 36 weeks' pregnant and stomach cramps, a drug that would bring about an abortion, changing money to US dollars and details of a man said to have murdered his own children.

When interviewed, Tunstill said she had no memory of giving birth.

Miss Blackwell told the jury: "The important issue to decide, you may think, is to determine what Rachel Tunstill's mental processes were at that time."

Simon Kealey QC (defending) there was no dispute that the baby was born alive and died as result of a number of stab wounds but the defendant had no recollection of the precise process of how that happened.

Tunstill denies murder.