Woman disposed of baby’s body in bin after alleged illegal abortion, court told


A “vulnerable” teenager used pills to abort her baby after being told she could not have a lawful termination, before disposing of the body in a bin, a jury has been told.

Sophie Harvey and her boyfriend Elliot Benham, both 19 at time of the alleged offences, were “shellshocked” when they were told she had gone past 24 weeks of pregnancy and could not have an abortion, Gloucester crown court was told.

They felt they could not tell their parents and rather than begin to plan to have a baby, allegedly researched on the internet how to obtain an “MTP kit” containing pills that can lead to an abortion.

Harvey cried as the prosecution detailed her account to police of losing the baby in the bathroom of her family home in Gloucestershire while relatives were away at a dancing competition.

Anna Vigars KC, prosecuting, told the jury the case was sensitive. Describing Harvey and Benham as vulnerable because of their age, she said they had found themselves in a “very difficult” situation facing “very real challenges”.

Vigars said that in the late summer of 2018, the pair, who lived with their parents, were boyfriend and girlfriend. On 13 August, they went to see Harvey’s GP because she thought she was pregnant and did not want to keep the baby. She thought she was 16 weeks pregnant and the GP referred her to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (Bpas) for advice about a termination.

The prosecutor said the pair left the GP practice believing their problem would soon be over but on 31 August a scan at a Bpas clinic revealed the baby was 28 weeks and five days, too old for her to have legal abortion.

A clinical care coordinator at the clinic said the couple seemed “shellshocked”. The coordinator later told police that Harvey seemed “scared, stunned, catatonic almost” and might have been crying. “I remember being struck by how lost Miss Harvey looked,” she said. Harvey said it was not an option to tell her parents.

Addressing the jury, Vigars said: “Whatever your views of abortion and the right of a woman to choose, or whether you believe abortion is wrong because of the ending of a life, what is very clear is this: by the beginning of September 2018, Sophie Harvey and Elliot Benham were in a difficult position and one that was not going to go away unless they did something about it.”

Vigars said Harvey’s GP surgery tried over the next weeks and months to contact the teenager to check that she was well and preparing for the baby. But she did not reply to phone messages or letters, it was claimed.

Instead, the couple allegedly began to research how they could “get rid” of the baby. “Both of them wanted the problem to disappear,” Vigars told the jury. They looked into whether they could obtain drugs or herbs to terminate the pregnancy. They searched for information about abortion MTP kits.

The barrister said it was difficult not to feel sympathy for them.

Vigars said Benham, who is from Wiltshire, placed an order for a kit, paying about £310, which he picked up from a mail collection point in Swindon on 22 September.

In late November, by which time the baby should have been born, medical staff asked the police to do a welfare check on Harvey.

When officers spoke to Harvey she said she had lost the baby. She told them: “I didn’t feel anything for a week or so.” She then felt pain and went to the bathroom, where she said she lost the baby. She told police the baby was small, about 15cm, and unresponsive. She said the body was wrapped in a towel and put in a bin.

As the officer’s statement was read out in court, Harvey began to cry and was comforted by Benham.

Police later found a kit minus one tablet. Harvey said she had not taken the pill but had disposed of it and insisted the baby had been stillborn.

Harvey denies procuring poison with intent to procure a miscarriage and denies administering poison with intent to procure a miscarriage. Harvey and Benham both deny doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice by disposing of a child.

The jury was told that both defendants had admitted the charge of concealing the birth of a baby.

The trial continues.