In the Media

Parents accused of swapping twins jailed for child cruelty

PUBLISHED October 11, 2011

Mohammed and Nafisa Karolia, who denied switching babies to cover up unexplained injuries, sentenced to five years in prison A couple accused of repeatedly deceiving health professionals by swapping their twins to cover up unexplained injuries that led to one baby's death have been sentenced to five years in prison after they were convicted of child cruelty. Mohammed and Nafisa Karolia, of Blackburn, Lancashire, had denied abusing the seven-month-old baby girl, who died in June 2009. But they were convicted at Preston crown court in July following a five-week trial after jurors deliberated for less than six hours. The trial heard that the couple attempted to cover up the baby's unexplained injuries to social services and health visitors by swapping the babies when they called at the house. Neither child can be identified for legal reasons. Sentencing them on Monday, Mr Justice Irwin told them it remained unclear whether a swap did take place, but what mattered was the child had been hurt and victimised while the other child was "looked after well". The judge said: "Only you two know if both of you or one of you have directed and inflicted the injuries. Whichever of those is true, you certainly knew it was happening, you knew it was wrong, gave encouragement and concealed it and you have continued to deny it." The couple will be released on licence halfway through their jail terms and will then have to serve an extended licence period of five years. They vehemently denied any baby swap, which was described by their legal teams as "fanciful" and "far-fetched". Both opted not to give evidence. They maintain their innocence and do not believe the other was responsible for the injuries, but the trial heard that no one else looked after the children. During the court case, prosecutor Joe Boyd said the identity swap was uncovered as a result of discrepancies in the head, weight and height measurements previously taken from the twins ? known as Twin M and Twin A. Twin M died after suffering numerous unexplained injuries including fractures to the ribs, legs and arms and skull damage affecting the brain and central nervous system. She also had a mouth ulcer, unexplained scratching to the ears, bleeding in the eyes and injuries to the nose that were "unusual", with damaged tissue suggesting it had been pinched with equal force on both sides by a clasp or clip. The bone breakages were said to have taken place between 24 hours and six weeks before death, while a postmortem examination found she died of bronchopneumonia. The victim had only ever been out of her parents' care for a matter of a few hours in her short life. Boyd said theoretically the injuries sustained could have been accidental but the number, the timescale and the lack of explanation for them suggested they were inflicted deliberately by one or both of the parents. He said: "Growth charts for both twins make it clear that the parents have at some stage swapped the babies. They have very probably done so to seek to conceal the mounting injuries being suffered by the child who died ? always the bigger twin but, for some reason, rejected and abused by them." The couple were said to have tricked a number of visiting health professionals into thinking they were seeing Twin M. Boyd said neighbours had only ever seen the Karolias with one baby and there was nothing to indicate they had twins. When interviewed by police, Nafisa Karolia, 22, said she noticed nothing unusual about her daughter apart from a runny nose. Her 29-year-old husband echoed this. Suzanne Goddard QC, representing Nafisa Karolia, said all her three surviving children had been taken from her and she was unlikely to have any extended contact ever again. Goddard said Karolia had been ill-treated by her mother and brother. She was taken into foster care at 14 and later met her husband who "she loves deeply" and "does not to seek to blame in any way" for the injuries to their daughter. Graham Wood QC, defending Mohammed Karolia, said: "He firmly believes that what happened with the loss of the baby was God's punishment for his lack of commitment to Islam. "His attitude remains the same. There is a continuing denial of culpability. He is a man who has otherwise been dutiful and loving, and dedicated to his family ? supported by his immediate family network." Wood added: "This was not a loveless or arranged marriage. He has now lost everything." Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Pete Broome, of Lancashire police, said: "I don't think any period of imprisonment would adequately sum up the gravity of this case. "In a now very lengthy career I don't think I've dealt with one more serious. This had got to be up there with the very worst. "They had come up with an elaborate plan. Quite why they did what they did only those two will ever know. Sadly, the child can no longer speak for herself because she's no longer here. "I wish I knew why they deliberately targeted one child. I've been asking myself that question for two years. "In my opinion, I think they did try to swap the identity of the babies." He said he did not think any more could have been done as the family were not known to police. Gladys Rhodes, Blackburn with Darwen council's strategic director of families, health and wellbeing, said: "The death of any child is tragic and this case was particularly harrowing due to the severity of the concealed abuse that this helpless baby was subjected to. "We welcome these sentences and the closure to this case. We would like to make it clear that we had no previous involvement with any of the children in the family, but the child's siblings are now in the council's care and care proceedings are ongoing." Crime Child protection Helen Carter © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds