(Daily Mail) – A toddler died in agony 11 days after drinking plant food that his mother was using to feed her cannabis crop that she kept in his bedroom, a court heard today.
Aaron Booth, two, found the bottle of liquid in his hunt for food and drink whilst his mother slept in bed with her boyfriend until lunchtime.
Lauren Booth, 23, had cleared Aaron’s bedroom in Almondbury, West Yorkshire, and turned it into a cannabis growing factory to ‘make some money’, a jury heard.
But the dehydrated toddler had not had a drink since the previous day and mistook her plant feed for a Fruit Shoot squash drink.
He suffered horrific internal burns and later died.
Booth sat rocking back and forth in her chair in the dock at Bradford Crown Court as the agonising and fatal burns to Aaron’s lips, mouth, esophagus, stomach, spleen, colon and pancreas were explained.
Prosecutor Tom Storey said the bottle had been left on a windowsill within easy reach of an ‘inquisitive and adventurous’ toddler.
The product contained 50 per cent potassium hydroxide, which is used in the hydroponic soil-free indoor cultivation of plants, and drinking just 10ml – two teaspoons – of the corrosive liquid is fatal.
Mr Storey said: ‘It is a clear liquid in a small, blue, plastic bottle. To a young child it looks similar to a Fruit Shoot squash drink.’
Jobless Booth was still in bed with her boyfriend Shaun Williams at 12.45pm on November 6, last year.
‘She had failed to get up and failed to provide Aaron with food and drink, and by midday he must have been very hungry and thirsty,’ Mr Storey told the jury.
‘He got hold of this bottle as he searched for something to eat and drink when left to his own devices – she preferred to stay in bed.’
Booth told police she woke when she heard a ‘bang’ and found Aaron collapsed beside her bed.
Mr Williams ran to a neighbour Sarah Kelly’s home and asked to use her phone, with Booth carrying Aaron behind him.
‘Aaron was floppy, gasping for breath. His mouth and lips were brown and he was in significant pain,’ said Mr Storey.
Paramedics took Aaron to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary before he was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary where he was treated for toxic ingestion.
He was stabilised despite suffering a collapsed lung.
Doctors treated him the next week and removed Aaron’s stomach and part of his oesophagus, but when they found his windpipe had been burned away by the potassium hydroxide – also known as caustic potash – treatment was withdrawn and he died.
Police and social services questioned Booth who said she’d put the bottle, which has a child-proof lock, on a windowsill on the landing.
The child’s natural father Mohammad Khan told officers he’d smelled cannabis on access visits to the house.
‘The defendant told him she and Shaun Williams had been trying to make some money by growing skunk,’ said Mr Storey.
She seemed ‘annoyed’ that social services and police were involved, stating she was ‘going to have to find somewhere else’ to grow the cannabis, the court heard.
Police searched the house but found no living house plants and no cannabis plants.
‘Such plants that were in the house were dead. There were dead plants in pots,’ said Mr Storey.
A laptop was seized on which a user ‘Foxy4Shaun’ had logged in and Googled ‘how to use a PH test for ganja’.
A Pdf file had been downloaded called ‘Cannabis Big Book of Buds’ and video files showing how to cultivate cannabis using the plant food were also on the computer.
Mr Storey said Mr Williams had removed he cannabis plants and related paraphernalia from Aaron’s bedroom whilst the youngster was battling for his life in hospital.
He said the bottle was labelled as corrosive and Booth was aware of it’s dangers.
A warning read: ‘Causes burns. Keep locked up and out of reach of children.’
He said it was the Crown’s case that Booth had willfully assaulted, ill-treated, neglected or abandoned her son in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health between August 16 and November 18 last year.
Booth denies child cruelty.
The trial continues.