Kate Roughley jailed for 14 years over death of baby at Stockport nursery

<span>Kate Roughley was found guilty of manslaughter after a four-week trial at Manchester crown court.</span><span>Photograph: Richard McCarthy/PA</span>
Kate Roughley was found guilty of manslaughter after a four-week trial at Manchester crown court.Photograph: Richard McCarthy/PA

A “callous” nursery worker has been jailed for 14 years for killing a nine-month-old girl who was strapped face down to a beanbag for more than 90 minutes.

Genevieve Meehan, known to her family as Gigi, suffocated after being placed in “mortal danger” as “punishment” by Kate Roughley, the deputy manager of Tiny Toes nursery in Cheadle Hulme, Stockport.

Roughley, 37, was found guilty of manslaughter after a four-week trial at Manchester crown court.

Sentencing her on Wednesday to 14 years in prison, the judge, Mrs Justice Ellenbogen KC, said Roughley had considered Genevieve “at best a nuisance” and at times with “antipathy”.

“At your hands Genevieve’s parents and grandparents … have lost their sunny, funny little girl,” she added. “By your callous act you have deprived her of the future she would have had and left an enduring void in their lives.”

The trial heard how Genevieve was left for one hour and 37 minutes swaddled in a blanket and strapped face down to a beanbag in the baby room at Tiny Toes on 9 May 2022.

Roughley, who had worked at the nursery for 17 years and ran the baby room, denied manslaughter and an alternative charge of child cruelty, insisting she did not cause the girl’s death.

However, the court heard how Roughley had taken a dislike to Genevieve and behaved antagonistically towards her in the days before her death.

The room leader had told the baby to “stop your whingeing” and said: “Genevieve, if we had any chance of being friends, you just blew it,” later adding: “You are driving me bananas.”

In CCTV footage on the day Genevieve died, Roughley could be seen picking the girl out of her cot and placing her impatiently on a play mat, muttering “vile” and “Twenty minutes. Twenty minutes.”

Within an hour, Roughley was seen clapping and singing: “Oh Genevieve. Genevieve go home, Genevieve go home, go home Genevieve,” as the child cried on a play mat.

In a victim impact statement read to court, Genevieve’s mother, Katie Meehan, said she felt “dead inside” and consumed by guilt that she left her daughter in Roughley’s care.

“My love for Genevieve cannot be put into words. I find that since she was so cruelly taken from me that words are simply inadequate. Nothing can reflect the horror of her death or the life that I now live,” she said in a statement read by the prosecutor, Martin Reid KC.

Meehan, who sobbed in the public gallery, described how Genevieve “smiled and laughed all the time” and loved playing with her elder sister, now six years old.

They had been looking forward to their first family holiday, which had been booked for July, and the infant had been trying on her sunglasses and swimming costume the day before she died.

She added: “How is any parent supposed to live with this. It was and is so horrifying. I don’t know how I have survived. Every day is torturous and I don’t know how I will live like this for the rest of my life. This has destroyed my family.

“I want the world to know how loved Gigi is and how desperate I am to have her, hold her, hear her breath in my ear and for her to have her cheek next to mine. My little Gigi was and is a beautiful soul, the image of her daddy and the light of our lives.”

In a brief statement read to court by the prosecutor, Genevieve’s six-year-old sister said: “Every day I get punched with sadness. What this lady has done is terrible and nobody should experience this.”

Addressing Roughley from the witness box, Genevieve’s father, John Meehan, said his daughter had suffered the “gross indignity” of invasive CPR and a postmortem and his family had all suffered “the indignity and horror of a police investigation which traumatised us afresh every day”.

Roughley stared at the floor of the court dock expressionless as the victim impact statements were read.

Her barrister, Sarah Elliott KC, said the defendant was “devastated” by her actions and that she was remorseful, despite her refusal to accept legal responsibility for Genevieve’s death.

Elliott said Roughley had an “unblemished” 17-year career at Tiny Toes and that she had been “failed” by the nursery’s senior management, who employed “far too few staff”, leaving her on occasions caring for between 11 and 16 babies on her own. She added: “She is not a monster.”

However, judge Ellenbogen said “none of that could explain or justify” her conduct towards Genevieve. “Your interactions with Genevieve on the 6 and 9 May palpably lacked any care, kindness or concern for her wellbeing.”