British Columbia

4-year-old beaten to death, says doctor

A medical expert has told a coroner's inquest she believes a four-year-old Prince George girl who died of severe head injuries in 1999 was beaten to death.

A medical experthas told a coroner's inquest she believes a four-year-old Prince George girl who died of severe head injuries in 1999 was beaten to death.

Amanda Simpson's stepfather told officials the little girl was injured in accidental falls while he was taking care of her.

But three medical experts have testified at the inquest in Prince George this week that Amanda's injuries don't match his version of events.

Dr. Margaret Colbourne of B.C. Children's Hospital, who examined the girl before she died, told the hearing on Tuesday that Amanda's head injuries were similar to those that would be suffered in a fall from a three-storey building.

She said Amanda's bowels and stomach were perforated. As well, she had bruises all over her body, there was unusualswelling and the girl was in shock and comatose.

In response to questions from jurors, the doctor said: "This wasn't an accident. She was beaten to death."

In the doctor's opinion, Amanda had been "battered, shaken, struck, punched, kicked, stomped, and perhaps thrown."

A forensic pathologist testified that Amanda's injuries suggest she may have been "slammed against a wall" or hit across the head with a board.

Dr. Glen Taylor said the girl had blunt force trauma to her abdomen and a complex fracture of the skull, along with numerous other injuries.

4-year-old fell: stepfather

On Monday,the dead girl's mother and stepfatherhad testifiedthat no one intentionally harmed her.

In 1999, the little girl's stepfather, Ronald Rory Polson, told doctors at the Prince George hospital he thought the child fell out of a bunk bed or had been pushed by her little sister.

But on Monday, Polson testified that Amanda had come up for a good-night kiss from him, and that he believed she then fell down the stairs. He said he didn't hear any cries,screamsor calls for help.

He said Amanda's then eight-year-old sister dragged her up the stairs and said Amanda had been hurt on the stairs.He told the jury he saw a lump on her head, and she wasn't conscious.

He told the inquest he got some frozen vegetables for her head, and put her on his bed,where she vomited.

Polsontestified he thought she might have a head injury and shouldn't be allowed to sleep, so he took her to the bathroom to clean her up and revive her with cold water.

He said he was carrying her when he slipped on the bathmat and they both fell against the bathtub.

He then calledAmanda's mother, Jerry Walton, who testifiedshe rushed home from work to findher daughter unconscious on the floor.

Walton testified she only saw a lump on the child's head and that she didn't think the injuries were intentionally inflicted.

Amanda died at B.C. Children's Hospital in Vancouver three days later.

Doctor details child's injuries

Pediatrician Dr. Marie Hay testified Monday that Polson's explanations didn't fit the injuries suffered by the child, and went on todetail the extent of those injuries for the coroner's jury, which included:

  • Severe head injury with a fractured skull,bleeding in and outside the brain, extreme brain swelling indicating blunt force trauma, suggesting great force and velocity.
  • A broken collarbone.
  • Severe abdominal injuries from blunt force trauma, which was life threatening.
  • Multiple bruising on her elbowsand body.
  • Retinal hemorrhaging.
  • Severe hypothermia.

She said the hypothermia was similar to that of a drowning victim submerged in ice water for 20 minutes, and that the head injuries and hypothermia reminded her ofa case in whicha child without a seat belt was in a car crash and was catapulted 10 metres out of the car into a snowbank.

Hay also noted there were biochemical abnormalities in the girl's bloodthat suggested the head injury had occurred some hours before.

A statement from Amanda's sister, who was just eight years old at the time, described her mother and stepfather bathing blood off Amanda before taking her to hospital.

Val Huber, a nurse who had tried to save Simpson, ended her inquest testimony in tears, calling this the "most disturbing case" in her career.

Following the girl's death,a judge awarded custody of Simpson's three sisters to the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Polson is still together with Amanda's mother, and they have had two more children together.

B.C.'s assistant deputy chief coroner, Jeff Dolan, told CBC News that the inquest was not held earlier because of concerns it could compromise the investigations being carried out by other agencies, including the RCMP.

Dolan said the Crown made a decision in 2004 that charges would not be approved, even though the police investigation was continuing, and that in 2005, the coroner's office decided the case should go to inquest.

In the coming days, more evidence is expected about the 22 complaints of abuse or neglect made to authorities before the little girl died.