Brain injuries consistent with hammer attack hastened death of cancer patient newsagent, court told

By Dave Doyle | 07/07/2017

Brain injuries consistent with hammer attack hastened death of cancer patient newsagent, court told
Judith Ducker

A PATHOLOGIST told jurors that bruises on a newsagent’s brain suggested an attack using “substantial force”.

Dr Daniel du Plessis, giving evidence at Sheffield Crown Court said the evidence was that cancer patient Judith Ducker (64) had been hit several times with a solid object.

Storm Blueitt (36) is on trial accused of murdering Ms Ducker at Wellgate News on Wellgate in Rotherham on September 1 last year.

The court has heard previously that Ms Ducker’s injuries were consistent with being attacked with a claw hammer.

Ms Ducker, of Treeton, died in hospital 50 days later after her treatment was stopped due to her injuries.

Dr du Plessis explained to jurors how Ms Ducker’s death, her breast cancer and the violent assault were connected.

He said the “mechanism of death” was swelling in the brain, caused by cancer tumours which had spread from Ms Ducker's breast.

But the newsagent might have lived longer given cancer treatments which stopped while she recovered from the attack, he added.

Pneumonia caused by her physical inactivity following the attack also contributed to her death, Dr du Plessis said.

The brain expert described finding a “variety of injuries to the brain as a result of physical force”, which “were getting better by the time of her death”.

But these made Ms Ducker “persistently confused” and “almost comatose” at times, making her unsuitable for cancer treatments with a “proven track record”.

This “clear, immediate, stepwise deterioration” in Ms Ducker’s health could only be explained by “damage to the brain as a result of physical force”, he added.

Prosecutors say the hammer attack, which Blueitt denies, played a significant part in causing Ms Ducker’s death and is thus murder although it did not kill her.

“With cancer, which is treatable, we have to consider whether the management of the patient contributed to death,” Dr du Plessis explained.

“In the clinical report, we see expected survival significantly shortened by brain injuries, which substantially limited treatment options.”

He added that Ms Ducker “would have died as a result of the cancer spreading to her brain, but her death was hastened by the denial of the opportunity to have these treatments”.

A brief statement by consultant radiologist Christine Ingram, of Rotherham Hospital, was also read to jurors..

In it, she described how Ms Ducker's cancer showed a “slow but positive partial response to treatment”, before it was suspended.

The trial continues.

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