Woman deliberately poisoned boy with 'industrial amounts' of laxatives

Tracy Menhinick's actions stunted the young boy's growth and led to him being taken to hospital.

Tracy Menhinick found guilty of deliberately poisoning young boy with ‘industrial amounts’ of laxatives STV News

A woman has been convicted of deliberately poisoning a young boy with “industrial amounts” of laxatives which led to his growth being stunted.

A jury in Aberdeen took just over one hour to find Tracy Menhinick unanimously guilty of wilfully harming the boy who was aged between three and six at the time.

The trial, which lasted 19 days, heard 5,500 pages of evidence and medical records relating to the youngster and his failure to gain weight.

Menhinick, 52, was found to have given the boy “industrial amounts” of lactulose which resulted in his growth being stunted and led to his hospitalisation.

As a result of this, the boy underwent needless operations which left him with permanent disfigurements, impairments and endangered his life.

One expert witness said the child had resembled a survivor from a concentration camp when admitted to hospital weighing just under 10kg at the age of five.

Wheelchair user Menhinick broke down as the verdict was read out.

Lady Drummond deferred sentencing to allow for steps to be put in place for her imprisonment, as she requires to be fed gastric fluid through a tube.

Dr Peter Sullivan, emeritus professor in paediatric gastroenterology at Oxford University, gave evidence during the trial and told the court he came to the conclusion the boy must have received “industrial amounts” of lactulose.

The boy had been admitted to hospital in October 2016 amid concerns for his weight loss.

No evidence was found of Menhinick poisoning the child at that time.

Dr Sullivan was asked if the medical staff at Aberdeen’s children’s hospital had investigated all possible causes for the boy’s weight loss, to which he replied: “Yes, they did.”

Fiscal depute Paul Kearney asked what conclusions he had drawn, to which Dr Sullivan replied: “It was beyond reasonable doubt that he had been administered significant quantities of lactulose.” 

He explained from reading the boy’s medical notes from hospital that he had been settled over night, but once visited by Menhinick, he would suffer from diarrhoea within hours, adding: “He was having slugs, big slugs of lactulose between waking up in the morning and then collapsing at midday.

“When it is given as a therapeutic dose, it does not have a catastrophic effect, but if an industrial dose is given, it will rapidly suck a lot of water from the bloodstream into the bowel, resulting in a drop in blood pressure and he would become extremely unwell.”

A test result from Great Ormond Street Hospital confirmed lactulose was present in the boy’s stool sample.

Dr Sullivan said the boy’s condition “dramatically” improved once Menhinick was no longer allowed to see the child.

The prosecution also said Menhinick had been able to “predict” when the child would have an episode and that she had pursued more invasive treatments.

The court also heard that a bottle of lactulose had been found after her house was searched.

Great Ormond Street Hospital’s consultant gastroenterologist Dr Keith Findley gave evidence and said the “catastrophic” diarrhoea the child was experiencing was “of course” due to lactulose poisoning, adding: “At times he was losing 10% of his body weight.”

The court heard that after these episodes, the child would become “floppy” and would often need to be resuscitated.

Defence agent Frances Connor had urged the jury not to believe the “spin and twist” the Crown had put on the situation.

Menhinick was ordered to appear at Glasgow High Court on March 19 for sentencing.

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