Mother of Farnley boy ‘allowed to rot to death’ said he was healthy

A mother accused of letting her teenage son ‘rot to death’ has said she ‘panicked’ when she concealed the remains of her dead baby in a rucksack.

Jordan Burling, 18, weighed just over six stone when paramedics found him lying on a filthy inflatable mattress wearing a soiled nappy on June 30, 2016.

He was covered in pressure sores and his body was likened to those of prisoners held in WWII extermination camps.

The body of his mother’s full-term newborn baby was also also found stuffed into a rucksack at their home in Farnley, West Yorkshire.

Denise Cranston, Abigail Burling and Dawn Cranston (left to right) at Leeds Crown Court. They are accused of allowing Jordan Burling to ‘rot to death’

Jordan’s mother Dawn Cranston told Leeds Crown Court she went through labour alone after suffering intense pains at her family home in Farnley in 2002.

She told jurors that she was completely unaware she was pregnant until she started to feel something ‘really heavy’ in her body, and had given birth within half an hour.

Describing how she did not call for help despite other people being in the house, the defendant tearfully said: ‘If I remember rightly, I don’t think its eyes were open.

‘I heard no noise, nothing. There were no signs at all of life. I just panicked, as nobody else knew that I was pregnant.’

The 45-year-old has admitted a charge of endeavouring to conceal a birth. 

She told jurors that she hid the baby’s remains in a rucksack then put it on top of a wardrobe in her bedroom.

Cranston claimed that she had intended to bury the remains but ‘did not get round to it’ and was unable to as there were always other people in the house.

The rucksack was finally found by police officers carrying out a search of the property following the death of her son Jordan about 14 years later.

She and her mother Denise Cranston, 70, and daughter Abigail Burling, 25, are on trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Jordan, who was 18 when paramedics found him dead and allegedly wearing a soiled nappy

Jordan, who was 18 when paramedics found him dead and allegedly wearing a soiled nappy

They are accused of Jordan’s manslaughter by gross negligence and an alternative count of causing or allowing the death of a vulnerable person.

The court previously heard that Jordan had been allowed ‘to decay, to rot to death, by those closest to him, over a period of, at least, several weeks’.

But on Thursday Dawn Cranston claimed she had asked her son ‘constantly’ about his health.

She claimed he had maintained a ‘stocky build’ as a teenager but experienced ‘fluctuations in his weight’ in the years before he died. 

‘He started to get thinner at one stage, he would put on weight and then he would lose it again. It was back and forth like that for maybe a few years,’ she told jurors.

She said she, Denise and Abigail fed him ‘all sorts of different things’ including pizza, spaghetti bolognese, ravioli, spare ribs, crisps and Haribo.

But she admitted she struggled to keep track of his diet and dental hygiene after she started working frequent night shifts in 2011.

He ‘suddenly got to the point where he wouldn’t move out of the chair or anything like that’, she told the court.

She said that, despite him ‘talking like normal’, he was clearly unwell and had to start wearing nappies after refusing to move from his chair.

The court heard that Jordan had ‘struggled to settle’ when he first started school and was a slow developer in his early years.

Dawn Cranston said she was forced to start home schooling her son when he was about 11 years old because he was being bullied at school.

She said his head was once smashed against a wall by one of his classmates.

The West Yorkshire home where Jordan lived with his mother, sister and grandmother

The West Yorkshire home where Jordan lived with his mother, sister and grandmother

When he turned 16 he ‘did his own thing’ after failing to decide which college he wanted to attend, she told the court.

‘If he wasn’t going out and about with Abigail (Burling) or by himself, he would be playing his computer games,’ she said.

Denise Cranston told police that Jordan refused to go to the doctors, saying she thought he was ‘stupid’ and ‘an idiot’ because of this.

The grandmother also revealed that she and her daughter would carry Jordan to the sofa to change his nappies, completely undressing him.

Dawn Cranston

Denise Cranston

Dawn (left) and Denise Cranston, Jordan’s mother and grandmother, who are on trial at Leeds Crown Court

Abigail Burling, Jordan's sister, who is accused of manslaughter by gross negligence along with her mother and grandmother

Abigail Burling, Jordan’s sister, who is accused of manslaughter by gross negligence along with her mother and grandmother

Describing Jordan’s physical state when they arrived at the house, paramedic Bridgett Sheppard said: ‘He was very very pale and you could see every bone.

‘His eyes looked sullen and I noticed he looked to have an adult nappy on.’

‘I asked the mum why Jordan was so thin and she responded saying he hadn’t been eating for a few weeks. 

‘But I remember thinking he shouldn’t be as thin as he was after just two weeks of not eating.

‘The mum didn’t seem bothered by what was going on or seem in a state of shock which seemed unusual.

‘The grandma was just watching us from an armchair at the far side of the room, the TV was on and she didn’t say anything.

‘Even as we performed CPR she didn’t seem bothered just sat very straight-faced with no emotion.’

Dawn Cranston, Denise Cranston and Abigail Burling all deny manslaughter by gross negligence.

Their trial continues on Friday.

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