Toddler died after “drinking poisonous plant food his mum used to grow cannabis”

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A TODDLER died after suffering severe internal burns when he drank poisonous plant food his mother was using to grow cannabis, a court heard today.

A jury was told little Aaron Booth, two, hadn’t been fed since the day before and was “hungry and thirsty” when he got hold of the bottle while searching for something to drink.

His mother Lauren Booth, 24, found her son with brown lips and struggling to breathe on November 6, 2010, after he drank a 10ml dose of pH Up plant food.

She is on trial for child cruelty.

The court heard the tot suffered severe burns to his oesophagus and stomach, as well as damage to internal organs as a result of drinking potassium hydroxide.

An operation on November 17 found his windpipe had disintegrated, a condition which he couldn’t survive, and he died later that day.

Prosecutor Thomas Storey told Bradford Crown Court Aaron hadn’t eaten since the day before.

He said: “His mother failed to get up by noon and see to her son. He was hungry and thirsty when he got hold of the bottle in search of something to drink.”

He added: “This is a tragic case. The prosecution say that in the months leading up to his death, she failed to cater for his needs. She left within his reach a highly toxic substance which should never have been there where he could get his hands on it.

“It should not have been kept in a location of access by an adventurous and inquisitive child.”

Aaron’s father Mohammed Khan, who is separated from Booth, did not find out his son was at the hospital until a friend told him on November 14.

When Mr Khan arrived at Leeds General Infirmary, Mr Storey alleged: “She told him that she and her partner had been trying to make money by growing skunk in the house.

“She was almost seeming annoyed by the involvement of the police because they were going to have to find somewhere else to grow the skunk and was seemingly not bothered about her son.”

Mr Storey said when Booth’s laptop was seized, police found a book called “Cannabis Big Book of Buds” had been downloaded, plus Google searches for “how to use PH test for ganja”.

Booth, of Huddersfield, said Aaron went to sleep at 6pm the night before, waking at midnight for some food, before sleeping again.

She did not go to sleep until 6am and only got out of bed after midday on November 6 when she heard a bang and found Aaron lying next to her bed.

Tragic Aaron suffered burns to his oesophagus and stomach, as well as damage to internal organs such as his spleen.

An initial operation removed his stomach and oesophagus, and a tracheotomy was performed to help him breathe.

But his condition continued to deteriorate and on November 17 an operation found his windpipe had disintegrated.

Mr Storey said: “This condition was so bad that he could not survive. Medical staff withdrew treatment and sadly he died later on that night.”

The prosecutor described Aaron’s bedroom as “curiously empty” compared to the “clutter of other rooms in the house and considering this was a young child’s bedroom”.

Police searches of the house at 10pm on the night Aaron was admitted to hospital found the windows open in Aaron’s bedroom, despite the cold November evening, with blackout curtains at the window.

Mr Storey told the jury: “You can infer from this what you will.”

Booth was interviewed by social workers while Aaron was still in hospital. They noted she did not stop to see Aaron when she returned to the ward to be interviewed.

Mr Storey said a consultant paediatrician, responsible for child protection in Leeds, was struck by Booth’s demeanour and appearance.

“She was defensive and resistant to talking to him,” he said.

The 250ml bottle, which was labelled “causes burns, keep out of the reach of children”, was kept on a 74cm-high windowsill at the top of the stairs, Mr Storey said.

Post-mortem examinations showed that Aaron could have reached 96cm standing on flat feet and 105.5cm on his toes.

Mr Storey said: “It’s clear that Aaron would have been able to reach this.”

Booth denies wilfully ill-treating or neglecting her son between August 16 and November 18, 2010.

The trial continues.