A FORMER soldier who killed his girlfriend’s five-month-old daughter by shaking her repeatedly has been jailed for seven and a half years.
Gordon McKay (38) was supposed to be looking after baby Hayley Davidson when he inflicted the fatal injuries.
He initially told his 27-year-old partner, Catherine Davidson, that Hayley was injured after wriggling off a beanbag when he left her alone to run a bath.
But he later admitted to police he had shaken her ‘three or four times’, resulting in her head ‘whipping backwards and forwards’.
Scans revealed the baby had a bleed on the brain. Hayley was taken off life support three days after the incident, on Valentine’s Day 2016, at McKay’s home in Buckhaven.
An investigation found McKay and Mrs Davidson smoked cannabis together, with Hayley in the room, the night before the attack.
Scans also showed that she had ‘a number of healing fractures over various parts of her body and of different ages’ when she was admitted to hospital.
Hayley had previously had hospital treatment for a broken arm on New Year’s Day 2016 – caused by McKay – but which medics and social care staff did not regard as suspicious nor acted on.
On Thursday, at the High Court in Edinburgh, judge Lord Uist told McKay that he had no other option but to send him to prison.
The judge had earlier heard defence solicitor John Scott QC say that his client met the criteria needed for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The court heard that whilst serving with the Black Watch in Iraq in 2004, McKay witnessed his comrade Sergeant Stuart Gray die after being blown up by standing on an Improvised Explosive Device.
However, Lord Uist said a custodial sentence was inevitable and noted that McKay wasn’t entirely truthful to the social worker who was commissioned to write a report into his character.
He added: “I emphasise that your plea of guilty included an admission of assault by repeated shaking in order to dispel any suggestion that what happened was nothing more than an accident.
“There should be no doubt on the part in the minds of anybody that Hayley’s short life was brought to an end by a criminal act on your part.
“Your assault on her caused her to suffer a subdural haematoma and a fresh subarachnoid bleed or in other words a bleed around her brain consistent with significant head injury caused by shaking.
“Hayley’s death has caused profound grief to the members of her family.
“The taking of a baby’s life by an assault involving repeated shaking even where it does not amount to the crime of murder is an extremely grave crime which must attract a lengthy sentence of imprisonment.”
McKay was originally charged with murder but last month at the High Court in Livingston, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of culpable homicide.
On that occasion, prosecution lawyer Jane Farquharson said Mrs Davidson had developed an ‘obsessive’ relationship with McKay after splitting from Hayley’s father.
On the morning of the incident, Mrs Davidson – who had been at home nearby getting her two older daughters ready for a day out – received a text from McKay saying: ‘Come quick!’ She ran to his house and found him trying to resuscitate Hayley.
Paramedics who arrived within seven minutes found the baby ‘pale, floppy and unresponsive’.
In response to police questioning at hospital, he recounted shaking her three or four times by her shoulders.
Miss Farquharson said: “He described her head as whipping backwards and forwards.”
She told the court: “The bleed to her brain was not a slow one and Hayley’s symptoms would have been obvious.”
Medics diagnosed a non-survivable head injury and when brain stem tests confirmed no activity, care was withdrawn.
But Miss Farquharson said the mother “seemed more concerned for the welfare of, and attentive to, Mr McKay” than in her daughter.
She added: “In a strongly worded police statement, a family liaison officer describes interrupting ‘intimate relations’ within the family room when she went through to advise Mrs Davidson Hayley’s life support machine was about to be switched off.”
Miss Farquharson said Hayley previously had hospital treatment for a broken arm on New Year’s Day 2016, three months into McKay’s relationship with Mrs Davidson, adding: “Gordon McKay took responsibility for what he described as the ‘accident’ that caused it.
“His account was deemed consistent with her injury and the clinical team did not view the fracture as suspicious.
“Social services were notified and did not intervene. Fife Council protocol has now changed as a result of this case.”
On Thursday, Mr Scott told the court that his client had served with the Black Watch but had been discharged due to his cannabis use.
He said that McKay had mental health problems and that he had also been homeless after he left the army.
Mr Scott added: “He meets the criteria needed for a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Whilst serving in the army he saw his platoon sergeant, sergeant Stuart Gray die. He was around 50 metres away when he saw Sergeant Gray stand on an improvised explosive device.
“I do not say these things to add to the pain or the burden which is being felt by Hayley’s family.
“Mr McKay is very sorry for what happened. He still can’t understand what happened. He appreciates that the only disposal in this case is the imposition of a lengthy prison sentence.”
However, Lord Uist said jail was the only option available to him and made reference to McKay’s conduct following the death of the little girl.
He added: “Following upon the assault upon Hayley you failed to give a true account of what happened to her mother, doctor and the police.
“You persisted in your untrue account to the social worker who prepared a report for this court and even denied any intenet to harm Hayley telling him you had pleaded guilty only on the basis of having caused her death accidentally.”
Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Chief Inspector Scott Cunningham said: “Gordon McKay’s incomprehensible, mindless and despicable actions resulted in the death of an innocent baby girl.
“He was supposed to protect and care for Hayley however his violent behaviour has had catastrophic consequences and ultimately been responsible for her tragic death.
“My thoughts, and of those connected to the investigation, remain with Hayley’s family and those who knew her during her short life. Hayley’s family have lost a daughter, sister and granddaughter in the most horrific circumstances.
“While Hayley’s death has had a profound effect on everyone involved in the investigation, this is nothing compared to the devastating impact on her family, friends and local community.
“Following a thorough investigation by a team of experienced and specially trained officers, we were able to gather crucial evidence which resulted in Gordon McKay’s guilty plea last month.
“I acknowledge the sentence today providing a conclusion to an emotive, complex and protracted investigation.”