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Woman ate lithium batteries and covered up who poisoned babies with salt and insulin

A woman previously hospitalised after swallowing lithium batteries and a spoon covered up the cause of poisoning in two babies and interfered with their treatment.

Aleksandra Tomczyk knew the infants had been given salt and insulin to make them unwell but tampered with their medication, Preston Crown Court heard.

The 29-year-old from Preston said she knew who had poisoned the babies but was not prepared to name them, Lancashire Live reports.

She pleaded guilty to child cruelty and was jailed for four years.

It is understood both children have made a full recovery.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, told the court the children were admitted to Royal Preston Hospital on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016.

They were not feeding properly and were suffering vomiting and diarrhoea.

One child was jittery and dehydrated but tests were unable to find a cause of illness.

However, salt levels in his blood were “exceptionally high”.

The child’s condition stabilised in hospital and began to thrive again, but was readmitted seven months later.

In February 2016, the youngster was treated at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, however blood sodium levels continued to spike.

Doctors and nurses carried out tests and monitoring but could not find a cause for the illness.

Judge Philip Parry said: “We know now that even when he was being treated by staff in hospital he was being given – not by you I accept, but with your knowledge – salt.

“Being poisoned by salt in that way is of course, exceptionally serious. [The child] was at risk of death or of survival with brain damage.

“Because of what you had done to [the child, they] underwent unnecessary, invasive surgery.”

Dr Coulthard, a paediatric consultant at Great North Children’s Hospital concluded the baby had been poisoned by deliberate administration of table salt.

However, days after the baby was discharged, another was taken to Royal Preston Hospital with vomiting, diarrhoea and feeding difficulties.

The child looked healthy but was lethargic and tests showed extremely low blood sugar.

Experts could not understand why blood glucose levels were so unstable, the court heard.

The baby was treated with intravenous fluids and dextrose, but during their stay suffered two hypoglycaemic episodes.

Ward staff noticed the child’s drip was not running very well and discovered it had been clamped shut, inhibiting the flow of fluids.

“It became abundantly clear to the staff treating [the child] that [they] had been given insulin”, Judge Parry said.

While [the child] was in hospital the baby contracted sepsis and other infections, which the court heard may have been from treatment, or simply from having her hospital stay prolonged, exposing her to infection.

When police searched Tomczyc’s home they found stockpiles of insulin, which she was prescribed due to suffering from diabetes.

Her electronic equipment revealed she had carried out numerous internet searches about medical symptoms, child diabetes, and eligibility for disability benefits.

The court heard Tomczyk has also had a number of hospital admissions for physical and mental health issues, and “unexplained internal and external injuries”.

In 2021 she was hospitalised after swallowing lithium batteries and a spoon, which resulted in her contracting a life threatening case of sepsis.

“The clinicians who were treating you thought you would die”, Judge Parry said.

Beverley Hackett, defending, said the defendant was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and has been an inpatient at the Harbour Mental Health Hospital in Blackpool for 18 months, but was deemed fit to enter her guilty pleas in 2021.

Psychiatrist Dr Rebecca O’Donovan said she had rarely seen such a complex psychiatric history in a patient.

She said Tomcyzk has personality disorders, eating disorders and factitious disorder – previously known as Munchausens – including by proxy.

“This is truly a tragic and complex case”, Judge Parry said. “The facts which lie behind it are mercifully rare in these courts.”

“The condition is characterised by deceiving people into thinking they, or another person, is ill.

“The deception was caused by you allowing each of these children to become, and remain, unwell.”

Ms Hackett said Tomcyzk had “troubling and unhealthy” relationships with men including her father and husband, which started while she was growing up in Poland.

The Court of Protection had stepped in due to her ongoing contact with her father and his associates, both in Poland and the UK.

Judge Parry said: “You said you had knowledge that somebody other than you was administering insulin and salt to each child.

“You said you wouldn’t, or couldn’t name them but you accept knowing who it was and doing nothing about it.

“You said while each child was in hospital you interfered with their care by doing something to raise the levels of salt or insulin to disguise what was happening.

“In truth, the only person who could have administered it was your husband. He no longer lives in this country.

“He was arrested but while on bail he fled the jurisdiction and is currently believed to be in China.”

The judge said he had read a number of psychiatric reports, which stated there was now no reason for Tomczyk to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

However he took her condition into consideration when passing a sentence of four years in custody.