A mum claims she is living “every parent’s worst nightmare” as she remains in jail for nearly killing her baby – despite a high court judge ruling the DAD was responsible.
Former law student Elizabeth Wilkins, 25, has spoken publicly for the first time and revealed she wants to be reunited with her son when she is hopefully freed.
She is currently one year into a seven year sentence for slamming the infant’s head against a hard surface, leaving him fighting for life.
The defenceless child had also suffered broken ribs and a fractured skull after he was shaken violently in frustration during the first three months of his life.
But it has now emerged that Wilkins’ conviction was in complete contrast to a previous Family Court ruling which placed the full blame for the boy’s injuries on his father Erick Vanselow.
Assault charges against Vanselow, 31, were dropped by the prosecution during the trial and he was also found not guilty of allowing the child to suffer serious physical harm.
After the criminal proceedings had concluded he returned to the Family Court to seek custody, but was told by the same High Court Judge, Lord Justice Baker, that the original verdict holding him responsible still stands.
Evidence presented to the Family Court even included an apparent confession when he told cops he feared he had shaken the tot “too hard.”
It is understood he has now left the country and returned to his family in Africa – while Wilkins remains in prison.
The Family Court ruling was only made public last month when Judge Baker, sitting at the Royal Courts of Justice, lifted reporting restrictions on it.
Wilkins still strongly denies what she was convicted of by a jury and is understood to now be looking at an appeal – although one has not yet been lodged.
And in her first interview, Wilkins of Plymouth, Devon, says she is now hopeful of being reunited with her son after being caught in the middle of what has been dubbed a “legal first” with two courts both coming to wildly different interpretations of the case.
Speaking from within her prison cell, she claimed she was living through every “parent’s worst nightmare.”
She said: “I find it especially troubling that there has been some kind of witch hunt against myself, whilst a man, who has been found guilty twice as many times as me, is still free and has not been punished for the harm he has caused, nor did the public know this until this week.
“They were essentially deceived and I worry that Erick could inflict more harm in the future.
“The recent developments have lifted my spirits considerably and I am very optimistic.
“It is just a case of how long it takes and the uncertainty surrounding that is agonising, particularly being separated from my son, family and friends.
“It has been incredibly challenging and heart-breaking to find myself in this position. Words cannot really express how let down I feel by the system.
“I have been carried through it by my friends and family and the amazing support of everyone at the prison.
“But that does not change the physical and psychological scars which I know will not heal easily. All I want, as my son is now thriving, healthy and happy, is to right this wrong and for the public to know the truth about both sides of this case.
“I am eternally grateful for my son’s amazing and miraculous recovery whilst not losing the determination to fight until the man who almost cost him everything receives the punishment he deserves.”
The family court judgement was withheld from the jury in order not to prejudice the trial but the discrepancy between the two different courts resulted in a successful challenge to the judge to lift reporting restrictions
The ruling, initially published in October 2017, heard that Justice Baker, a High Court Judge, found “on the balance of probabilities” that the baby sustained his serious head injury “whilst in the care of his father at or around 4am.”
Justice Baker, who was one of seven new Court of Appeal Judges announced this year, added in this report: “On a balance of probabilities, the injuries were inflicted by the father non-accidentally.”
The judge said he found it “more difficult” to reach a conclusion around when the mum first knew about the injury.
The judge said he accepted the father did not tell the mother about the alleged incident until some hours later and said he accepted her account that she did not look at the baby before she went out because she was “in a rush and did not pay much attention.”
He added: “I find that the father, having inflicted the injuries, must have realised the baby needed urgent medical attention and yet took no steps to seek assurance for nearly ten hours.
“Although the mother did not know what had happened, had she paid more attention to her baby that morning she ought, in my judgment, to have realised from the symptoms which the baby was manifesting that he was not well and needed urgent medical attention.”
Speaking after the judgement was made public, Wilkins added: “It is so important for me that the full story gets out.
“I have wanted it released and have thought long and hard about it for a long time and I really believe it is the right thing in the interests of fairness and justice.
“I just want it to be the truth so the public know the full story and children can be protected from Erick. They said in court he has now fled the country to his parents in Zambia and is refusing to engage with the process in any way.”
It is understood that both Vanselow and Wilkins were initially arrested after the tot was taken to Derriford Hospital with life-threatening injuries.
According to the transcript from the Family Court, Vanselow then told police: “It seems like I’ve used excessive force or I’ve done something really, really wrong.”
He also told cops: “I think I could have shaken him too hard to the point where something’s gone wrong.”
Vanselow was initially charged and Wilkins was released on bail and it was only in summer last year when she was added to the charge and they both went on trial.
After four and a half weeks of evidence, Wilkins was found guilty by a jury on one count of assaulting the baby with intent to cause grievous bodily harm on September 22, 2016.
She was also found guilty of assaulting the baby causing actual bodily harm between August 31 and September 3. This charge relates to his bloodshot eyes.
She claims she has no idea what prompted such a different outcome between the two courts.
She said: “I have never heard of that happening before. I guess in the criminal courts I was an easier target. I was a lot more emotional and less together giving evidence.
“I think the prosecution thought if they left both of us on trial then none of us would be convicted.
“A horrific thing happened and they didn’t want no-one to blame.
“I was left as the only option and his charges being dropped was the real turning point in the case.”
She said that the support among her family and friends has given her the strength to fight on.
She added: “I have thought I would rather die than go to prison for something I haven’t done but I know that isn’t the right thing to do. That is not going to help me or my son and nothing will be put right by it.
“People will assume the opposite and that I had killed myself as I was guilty.
“I can not get this time back. If the charge had been ‘failing to protect my son’ I would have plead guilty but I will never admit to something I have not done.
“My son nearly died, he was so close and however that happened I should not have let it happen.”
Wilkins said that one of the revelations during the trial she believes turned opinions against her was that she had worked as an escort which she used to pay for therapy to try and get her son back.
She only stopped selling her services when the publicity began around her trial but claims it was not a ‘sordid secret’ and was the actions of a caring mother.
She added: “I was doing it was to pay for the therapy to get my son back.
“I needed £3,000 a month and was not free 9-5. What job could you possibly do to afford that?
“it was never a secret and is something a lot of people do.
“But I don’t think the revelations helped my case. I am not proud of it, but I was doing it for very good reasons.”
Wilkins says she was part-way through a law degree at Plymouth University when she fell pregnant with Erick Vanselow’s child – after they had been together for two and a half years.
During the trial it was heard that there was a 90 minute window on September 22 2016 when Wilkins was left alone with the baby when it was said she caused his injuries.
But she claims she merely took a shower, did her hair and put on her make-up ready for a counselling session during this time before leaving the baby with Vanselow for the rest of the day.
The court heard suspicions were raised when she remained “unusually” calm and showed no emotion while her son, who can not be named for legal reasons, fought for life in hospital.
Wilkins claims she was just suffering from shock.
She added: “I did not want to leave him and just thought I have got to keep it together. If I came across that way it was because I was in shock and not that I didn’t care.
“Before that I was shaking uncontrollably.
“I was also shaking wildly when the verdict came in. I just thought I have got to keep it together.
“It was surreal and I didn’t really know what was happening. It was like it was slowing down.
“I just completely broke down.”
Wilkins said the main thing she was focused on now was a future being reunited with her son.
She added: “The most common thing I am asked is how my son is doing and I am able to tell them he is doing well.
“They feared he would suffer longer term damage but until they talk it is hard to know. He had a brain operation and he was paraylsed down the left hand side of his face. They said he would never talk, would never crawl or sit up but he has done all of these things.
“He is developing into a very articulate young man.
“I last saw him during the trial but it is difficult now. I worry he is saying ‘where has mummy gone?’ and no good mother would ever give up on their child.
“I want him back with me, but it all depends on how long everything takes and if he can’t be with me then I know the people he is with are amazing and he is very loved.
“If he is then six or seven by this point I would want to take his wishes into account.”
Wilkins was already the subject of one vigilante attack during the trial and said she initially feared what the reaction would be to her in prison – but claims that after hearing the details of her case her fellow inmates have been very supportive.
She added: “I was quite bad when I first moved in and had self-harm issues but that is long behind me now.
“I was concerned people may have issues with me because of the media, but after staff and prisoners heard about the issues, the family court judgement, the polygraph, they are all 100 per cent behind me which is wonderful.
“I am very excited by what happens now.
“I would prefer to be home but I think I have reached the point of being as happy as I can be here thankfully.”