Punches killed boy, says doctor
By Brendan Roberts Herald-Sun, June 16, 2007

CODY HUTCHINGS - Fatal punishment

A FIVE-YEAR-OLD allegedly murdered by his mother's fiance most probably died from being punched or kneed in the stomach and hit in the head, a pathologist told a court yesterday.

Cody Hutchings' fatal injuries could also have been inflicted three or four days before he died, forensic pathologist Malcolm Dodd told the Supreme Court.

Dr Dodd told a jury the tissue attaching Cody's organs to his body wall -- his mesentery -- was fatally damaged.

Stuart John McMaster, 30, is accused of killing Cody by brutal discipline including smacking, slapping and strapping the developmentally-delayed boy with a reinforced leather belt.

Mr McMaster told police he struck the child up to 25 times on the day he died.

Dr Dodd said Cody had sustained the fatal injuries to his mesentery, and a tear to his liver, between three and four days before he died on March 25 last year.

"The common cause would be a punch with a closed fist or pushing forcefully with a knee," the doctor said.

"(It) would have to be quite severe, it (the mesentery) is a very deep-seated structure and would need a deep penetrating force to cause a tear," he said.

Dr Dodd said that in his autopsy on the boy he found more than 160 bruises and two skull fractures, including one, between seven and 10 days old, which measured 16cm from the top of his head to behind his left ear.

"There was evidence of brain swelling, which you would expect after trauma," he told the trial.

When asked what ultimately caused the toddler's death, Dr Dodd replied "blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen".

Mr McMaster's lawyer, Gavan Meredith, asked Dr Dodd if the fatal injuries could have been the caused by a bike fall Cody had in the week leading up to his death, but was told that was "well down on the scale of likelihood".

Mr McMaster has pleaded not guilty to murdering Cody and to charges of seriously assaulting his fiancee, Cody's mother Belinda McMaster.

The trial, before Justice David Harper, continues on Monday.



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