- Hospital worker was ‘obsessed with daughter’s weight’ and poured food into her mouth
- Infant died from pneumonia caused from meat and cereal found in her lungs
A nurse was facing jail today after killing her baby by force-feeding her, in the first case of its kind in Britain.
Gloria Dwomoh poured liquidised food into her daughter Diamond’s mouth while weaning her, despite being warned in the past about the feeding methods.
A catalogue of social worker errors allowed Dwomoh to overfeed her 10-month-old, who eventually died from pneumonia caused by food being in her lungs.
Now, an investigation is being launched into feeding methods used by mothers, particularly those from cultures where bigger babies are considered to be healthier.
A serious case review reported 18 key findings, including the lack of understanding on the issues which should have caused alarm bells to ring.
Dwomoh was found guilty at the Old Bailey of causing or allowing the death of Diamond.
She was said to be obsessed with Diamond’s weight and poured liquidised food into her mouth when she was weaning her.
Diamond died in March last year after being taken to a hospital near her home in Waltham Forest, east London.
A post-mortem examination found she died from pneumonia caused by food, including meat and cereals, in her lungs.
The prosecution said Diamond was forced to take her feed from a jug after the spout was placed in her mouth.
The mother and her 37-year-old husband denied the charge. The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was found not guilty.
Dwomoh showed no emotion as she was remanded in custody to be sentenced on November 9.
The 31-year-old, who worked at St Thomas’ Hospital in south London, had wept in court as she denied doing anything to harm her baby.
She said she and her siblings had been fed the same way by her mother in Ghana when she was weaning them onto solid food.
On the night Diamond died, she had fed the child, bathed her and put her to bed before going to work.
‘I didn’t do anything to her. I didn’t do anything at all to hurt her,’ she said as she broke down in the witness box.
Dwomoh showed the jury two small china jugs, the size of cups, which she used for feeding.
She said she made up feeds, including liquidised chicken soup, in one jug and transferred small amounts to feed the girl into the other.
Diamond did not take to the bottle well and she was trying ‘to give her nutrients rather than milk’.
However, Andrew Edis, QC, prosecuting, said the food had ‘gone down the wrong way’ over months after the child had begun coughing and choking.
Mr Edis told the jury: ‘This is a very sad case. She died because of the method by which her parents chose to feed her at the time she was being introduced to solid food.
‘The allegation is one of force-feeding. If you have a child who is distressed and choking, you do not carry on.
‘It involved the use of jugs – pouring food into the mouth of the child.
‘The spout was placed into the mouth of the child to prevent her closing it when she did not want any more – to prevent her having any choice.
‘The mother, she is a nurse, and that involves a degree of extra insight.
‘An ordinary mother would think twice or more before using a jug to pour food into the mouth of a child.’
Dwomoh had been warned about the feeding method in the past but Diamond, although taken to see doctors, was not on the ‘at risk’ register.
A detective in the case said: ‘She appeared to be obsessed with Diamond’s weight and ignored advice she had been given.’
Laura Eades, chair of Waltham Forest Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: ‘I would like to express our deep regret and sadness for the death of Diamond.
‘The death of a child by force-feeding is extremely rare. To our knowledge, this case is the first of its kind in this country and we are determined to learn from the issues that were central to this tragic loss of life.
‘The serious case review has found that there were weaknesses and shortcomings in the practice of some of the agencies involved with the family.
‘Had best practice been followed, the risk to Diamond of force-feeding would have been better recognised and the family would have been offered further support and intervention.
‘This should have reduced the probability of Diamond being subject to behaviour that proved in this case to be fatal.
‘As a result of this review, action is being taken on the areas where practice has been identified as needing improvement.
‘We are also taking steps to ensure that there is better information nationally available about this rare risk to children.’
The review found ‘significant shortcomings’ in methods used in child protection issues in the area.
FORCE-FEEDING WAS ‘ENTIRELY PERFECT’ IN GHANA, SAYS NURSE
Gloria Dwomoh insisted that force-feeding young children from a jug was an ‘entirely perfect’ method in her native Ghana.
The registered nurse told child abuse detectives that ‘cup feeding’ was regularly used and she had seen it with her ‘own eyes’.
She said pouring liquefied food, including porridge and soup, was a good way of weaning reluctant babies from milk.
Academics have found evidence that force-feeding takes place in Ghana and other African nations including Kenya and Nigeria.
One study found it was driven by the fear of vulnerable children dying from malnutrition or dehydration.
The practice may also have its roots in historic rural traditions which meant well-built women are a sign of wealth and fertility.
But detectives remained unconvinced that Dwomoh was driven by traditions brought from her native Ghana.
Instead they suspect her obsession with the weight, size and appearance of her children over-rode warnings about the dangers of force-feeding.
Dwomoh readily admitted feeding baby Diamond from the jug and said she even used a syringe to squirt milk into her mouth.
She said: ‘It is acceptable from where I come from, from where I come from cup-feeding is an acceptable form of feeding.’
Describing how she would coax her to eat, she added: ‘When the food is in her mouth, I say “baby, she won’t swallow” – I tried to tip her a bit and then she’d swallow.
‘You put your hands around her ear and let her know the food is in her mouth. That is not force-feeding.’