Son Left Brain Damaged By His Dad
Abbie was ready to be a parent, but was Luke?
Romeo was a brilliant baby
Abbie Dean, 22 Newquay, Cornwall
At 18, with a summer of travelling ahead of me, I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. And I certainly wasn’t interested in Luke Honeychurch.
In 2013, he’d come to spend a few months in Newquay – my home town – with his sister, and we had mutual friends.
But, despite initially thinking he was a bit gobby, he was actually funny and outgoing.
‘We’re going out if you want to come?’ he said one night.
We started hanging out together, just having fun.
Neither of us wanted anything serious… ‘I’m off in June,’ I told Luke, then 21, from the start.
I’d booked to go to Thailand and Australia with mates.
I couldn’t wait!
Before long, Luke moved back to Plymouth and I went off travelling. I had an amazing time in Thailand, but didn’t feel well. Tired and sick… It was so bad, I came home instead of seeing Australia. Then I realised I hadn’t had a period for a while. I was on the pill, so I didn’t really think I could be pregnant… Only, five pregnancy tests proved otherwise! Calling Luke, I broke the news. Although a bit shocked, he was great about it. ‘Whatever you want to do, I’ll support you,’ he told me. It may have been unexpected, but I wanted this baby. My family weren’t best pleased, but they came around. And Luke and I decided we’d make a go of things – for the sake of our baby. So, in August 2013, I moved to Plymouth to be with him. His family was great, and things between us were good for a while. My pregnancy progressed well, but I piled on 5st in weight. ‘I’m craving apple crumble and custard again,’ I kept saying to Luke. I couldn’t get enough of it! And, as time went on, I started to feel like Luke was more interested in going out partying than he was in me. I hoped the arrival of our baby would change that. In February 2014, Luke was with me when I went into labour. Baby Romeo arrived weighing 8lb 6oz at Derriford Hospital and I had the first hold. ‘Wow!’ I said, absolutely besotted with him. He was gorgeous – and he had my nose! Doctors were concerned about his breathing but, thankfully, everything was OK. Back home, we took each day at a time. Romeo was a brilliant baby and only screamed when he was hungry. Luke helped with changing nappies and daytime feeds. I couldn’t believe I had a son! ‘He’s amazing,’ I kept saying. But Luke seemed jealous of the attention I paid Romeo. By the time
our boy was three months old, Luke and I realised things between us were not working out.
So, in May 2014, we split up. Luke moved back in with his parents, but asked about Romeo and looked after him one night a week and on alternate weekends. On Friday 27 June 2014, I was invited on a rare night out. ‘Can you come and watch Romeo?’ I asked Luke. He agreed. Later, I gave Romeo a bottle and a kiss before handing him to Luke. ‘Thanks,’ I said, excited to be going out. I spent the evening in Walkabout and Wetherspoons in Plymouth, texting Luke regularly to check on Romeo. ‘He’s a bit moany,’ he replied. I didn’t think anything of it. Babies can be grizzly. I was supposed to stay at my sister-inlaw’s that night, but by 1am, I wanted my own bed. Heading home, I was surprised to hear Romeo crying. ‘Can you settle him?’ I asked Luke, as I had had a few drinks.
But he couldn’t calm our boy down. So instead I picked Romeo up and took him into my bed to try and soothe him. Only, he was staring blankly at the ceiling and twitching.
Worried, I started to panic. ‘Call 999!’ I shouted to Luke. ‘Something’s wrong with him.’ When Luke didn’t react, I called for an ambulance myself.
I couldn’t deal with his irrational jealousy right now.
Ignoring him, I grabbed a few things for Romeo.
He was my priority – I didn’t give Luke a second thought as I bundled into the ambulance with my baby.
We were rushed to Derriford Hospital, where Romeo was taken for a CT scan. ‘We think he’s had a bleed on the brain,’ the doctor said.
I didn’t know what it meant – or why it’d happened – but they wanted to airlift Romeo to Bristol Children’s Hospital...
He had a bleed on his brain
Romeo was put on life support
Shortly afterwards, Luke arrived at the hospital and we called our families.
‘I can’t go to Bristol as I’ve got a Jobseeker’s appointment tomorrow,’ Luke said.
‘Fine,’ I muttered.
All I cared about was Romeo. As Romeo was taken to Bristol, my brother Jamie, 24, drove me there.
At the hospital, doctors confirmed the bleed on Romeo’s brain. ‘We don’t know how it’ll affect him,’ they said.
I burst into tears. Already poorly Romeo was having seizures and was on lifesupport. ‘It looks like shaken baby syndrome,’ I was told. ‘What?’ I gasped, horrified. I’d never hurt my precious boy. But would Luke? ‘What did you do?’ I snarled when he arrived later.
‘I didn’t do anything,’ he snapped.
Thankfully, my brave boy fought on, but he was diagnosed with epilepsy, diabetes insipidus and, later, cerebral palsy. ‘It’s a term for neurological conditions that can affect speech, movement and development,’ my sister Tara, 27, who’s a nurse, explained later.
Devastated, I broke down. How had this happened?
police and Social Services started an investigation into what had happened. After that, I didn’t see or hear from Luke. Instinctively, I knew he’d done this. To his own son… How could he? Luke was Romeo’s dad. He was supposed to protect him from harm. By then, Romeo was being
fed by a nasal tube, as he couldn’t swallow properly.
He was also given medication for his conditions. I spoke to him and sang to him. ‘I love you,’ I kept telling him. Finally, after four months, he was discharged from the hospital.
I had learnt how to use his feeding tubes, but his eyesight was affected, too.
I still didn’t know exactly what had happened. But I knew Luke had ruined my boy’s life.
Then, in June, at Truro Crown Court, the horrifying truth emerged when Luke Honeychurch, then 24, admitted child cruelty.
On the night I’d left Romeo with his dad to enjoy a rare night out, my little lad had started crying.
Instead of cradling and comforting him, Luke had shouted and sworn at him before shaking him with such force he’d caused life-changing conditions.
Then he’d lied about what’d happened, and didn’t get my son help… If only he’d called an ambulance – or me – things might’ve been different.
Luke was sentenced to three years in jail. A slap on the wrist.
‘Romeo’s the one with a life sentence,’ I fumed.
Despite everything, my brave boy, now three, loves music and is so happy. He babbles constantly and has regular physiotherapy to help his movement.
But thinking about how different his life could be breaks my heart.
I’ll never forgive Luke.
I’ll protect him forever
Romeo just wouldnõt settle
We’ll get through the challenges together