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Killer of Dundee baby is jailed for ten years

Robert Cunninghan sentenced at High Court for death of Dundee toddler Brandon Muir.

A drug addict who was convicted of killing his girlfriend's young son has been sentenced to ten years in jail.

Robert Cunningham, 23, killed Brandon Muir after he stamped on the 23-month-old so hard that the child's duodenum – part of the small intestine - was pressed against his spine until it burst. The court heard how doctors found at least 40 injuries on Brandon, including bruising and four fractured ribs.

Cunningham was originally accused of murdering the tot at a flat in Dundee's Balunie Crescent, but a jury at the High Court in Glasgow returned a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of culpable homicide earlier this month.

RESOURCES

Case study - The effect of drugs on two Scottish families

He was convicted of seizing Brandon by making him stand against a wall or other surface, and applying pressure to his abdomen "by means unknown" the day before he died.

It emerged during the trial that Brandon's mother Heather Boyd worked as a prostitute and smoked heroin on the night her son fell ill. While she was working in Dundee's red light district, Cunningham was having sex with another woman and taking drugs while Brandon's condition deteriorated.

Ms Boyd, 23, was originally charged with culpable homicide for failing to seek medical help for her son but the charges against her were dropped on the penultimate day of the trial after judge John Morris QC concluded there was no case to answer.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES FILMED FOLLOWING THE CONVICTION OF ROBERT CUNNINGHAM

Interview with John Muir, the father of baby Brandon

Interview with Alan Baird, Director of Social Work at Dundee City Council

Interview with Fred McBride, Head of Childrens' Services at Dundee City Council

Sentencing Cunningham on Tuesday, Judge Morris said: "The jury held that you did not murder Brandon Muir, but convicted you of killing that unfortunate child. This was an act of unwanted violence aggravated by you not getting medical assistance."

The 10-year jail term was backdated to March 31 last year, when Cunningham entered custody.

Judge Morris also referred the case to the Scottish Ministers under the Protection of Young Child Act. Cunningham showed no emotion as he was lead to the cells.

Following the verdict, the grandmother of Brandon Muir said Cunningham's 10-year jail term was not enough for the "devastation" he had caused the family. Veronica Boyd, the mother of Heather Boyd, said: "It's not enough. He has stolen and taken our grandson from us. He has caused total devastation to both sides of Brandon Muir's family."

HARROWING

During the trial, jurors heard that Cunningham and his then-partner Ms Boyd lived in Dundee and were the guardians to Brandon.

Brandon died at Ninewells Hospital on March 16 last year, a day after he suffered the horrific injuries. The trial heard from doctors at the hospital who said Brandon's injury would have been caused by a "blunt force" and the child would have been in severe pain before he died.

Unemployed Cunningham gave evidence during the 20-day trial, which heard from 54 other witnesses. He said he got on "brilliantly" with Brandon but disciplined the toddler when he climbed on to a window ledge at the flat he shared with Ms Boyd while she was at a shop. Cunningham said he smacked him on the hand and made him stand against a wall.

But evidence from medical experts suggested that force had been applied to the child's abdomen which caused his intestine to become crushed against his spine. The court heard Brandon was repeatedly sick the evening before he died but an ambulance was not called until around 4.20am on March 16 last year. The pair tried to resuscitate the toddler before paramedics arrived and took him to Ninewells.

The case sparked a review of child protection services at Dundee City Council as it emerged that social workers had been alerted to concerns over Brandon by family members and neighbours.

REVIEW

Peter Wilson, the man who is leading the independent review into the circumstances surrounding the death of Brandon said: “I believe that significant progress is being made in speaking to those involved in the case, and gathering information about what happened. Thus far the work has included speaking to family members, the staff involved, and the management of the various services. More interviews are scheduled, and others still to be organised.

"It is important to my work that anyone who believes they have a contribution to make to this review should feel able to speak to me, and I would ask that anyone who believes they have relevant information should contact me at the e mail address p.y.wilson@dundee.ac.uk. “

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