| Trupti Patel with husband Jayant outside the court. (Reuters)
London, June 12: A 35-year-old Indian mother, Trupti Patel, was yesterday acquitted of murdering three of her infant children at the end of an unusual six-week trial in Britain.
“Words cannot describe how I feel,” said Trupti, who is still not allowed to live in her own family home in Maidenhead, Berkshire, because she has been considered a threat to her only surviving child, a daughter of eight.
The jury took only 90 minutes to clear her of all three murder charges.
“I’m absolutely delighted at the verdict, but this should never have come to court,” she declared, reflecting a view that gained strength as the trial progressed.
Tragedies kept recurring with Trupti’s children. Amar died in 1997, aged 22 months; Jamie died in 1999, aged 15 days; and Mia died in 2001, aged 13-and-a-half weeks.
After the third death, Trupti, a pharmacist, was charged with murder, mainly because four of Mia’s ribs were found broken. It was assumed she had smothered the infant but experts now say the likely explanation is that she attempted resuscitation.
After the verdict, a sobbing Trupti embraced her husband, Jayant Patel, a 35-year-old British Telecom business analyst who had never had any doubts that his wife was a loving and devoted mother.
“She has been very, very strong,” said Jayant, who, it is understood, will now have a vasectomy so that the tragedies of the past are never repeated, though his dream of having two children will also never be realised.
In his evidence, he had impressed on the court that each of their children was loving and wanted and that his wife was a “loving, caring and compassionate” mother.
Much of the criticism is now focused on two experts, Sir Roy Meadow, a specialist in child abuse, and Michael Green, a pathologist, whose opinion bolstered the police decision to bring charges against Trupti. Had she been found guilty, she faced a life sentence, which, even with remission for good behaviour, would have meant spending between 15 and 20 years in prison. A case such as this also provides ammunition against those who want to bring back the death penalty.
Perhaps the fact that child abuse is common in Britain may have led the prosecution to jump to conclusions. Child battering is not uncommon but most of the cases have involved either white or Afro-Caribbean mothers.
It did not occur to any of the prosecution authorities that child murder by an Indian mother was a rare phenomenon.
Clinching evidence was given by Trupti’s grandmother, Surajben Patel, who was flown from her village in Gujarat to give evidence at Reading Crown Court. Dressed in a sari, she limped painfully up the court steps and told the court, through an interpreter, that she had lost five of her 12 children in infancy.
According to a genetics expert, Michael Patton, this evidence “strongly suggested” there was some genetic link to the deaths of babies in the granddaughter’s case.
However, Sir Roy, an eminent paediatrician, is well known for the opposing view that “one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious, and three is murder”.
Trupti’s defence lawyer, Kieran Coonan, had argued that his client had no motive to kill her children and had told “not a single lie” to the court.
With the speed of its decision, the jury made it clear it entirely agreed with Trupti’s defence and searching questions will now be asked as to why an innocent woman, who had already suffered three tragedies, was subjected to further torture by trial.
Was it because she was Indian'