A £90,000-a-year City worker today burst into tears in the dock and screamed: ‘You killed her’ at her handyman boyfriend as they were both convicted of shaking their four-week-old baby to death.
Management consultant Clare Sanders, 44, and Thomas Vaitkevicius, 45, attacked Eva on at least three separate occasions during her short life and were guilty of killing her, the Old Bailey jury found.
The heavy drinking couple had blamed each other during the trial and as they were ordered to stand before they were led to the cells, Sanders sobbed: ‘I didn’t do anything to her.’
Management consultant Clare Sanders, 44, (pic) and Tomas Vaitkevicius, 45, were accused of murdering four-week-old Eva Sanders in September 2017 by repeatedly shaking her
Sanders knew the tiny girl had been badly injured in the days before she died and used her phone to search for ‘shaken baby syndrome.’
Neighbours called emergency services after hearing the mother screaming: ‘My baby, my baby’ on the night of September 1, 2017.
Eva was rushed to hospital where medics battled to save her life but was pronounced dead shortly before 7am the following day.
A post-mortem revealed she had suffered multiple rib fractures and gave the cause of death as ‘traumatic brain and spinal cord injury.’
The couple have now separated and blamed each other for the killing in a ruthless ‘cut throat’ defence.
They were both heavy drinkers and Sanders was downing at least three bottles of wine a day.
The jury deliberated for 26 hours and 54 minutes before convicting them both by majority of causing or allowing the death of a child.
Vaitkevicius met the financier while he was still with his ex-wife when she hired him to renovate her bathroom.
At the time Sanders was divorcing her husband.
The court heard the couple shared a torrid relationship punctuated by furious rows.
Vaitkevicius would storm out of their south London flat, while Sanders ‘distanced’ herself from her daughter and left the baby in her bed alone when she got frustrated with her.
Six days before Eva died she searched: ‘Shaken baby syndrome NHS’, ‘Shaking babies’ and ‘baby is shaking.’
On the night of August 31 neighbour Karen Drewell told how she ran downstairs and saw Vaitkevicius giving Eva the ‘kiss of life’ on a bed after she was awoken by frantic Sanders screaming: ‘My baby.’
Ms Drewell left the flat in Mitcham to call an ambulance and then returned to the bedroom to see baby in her mother’s arms.
She told jurors: ‘The image is in my mind forever, of that grey baby in Clare’s arms.
‘As I walked back into the bedroom Clare was holding the baby and the baby’s face was grey and she was screaming.
‘She had her arms around Eva’s arms and round her chest. The baby’s face was facing outwards.
‘She was saying to Tomas that he had killed the baby by not bringing up her milk.’
Ms Drewell and her father listened to paramedics after calling 999 and were told to use two fingers to try and revive the baby’s heart and to place her on the floor.
When paramedics arrived they took over and rushed Eva to St George’s Hospital, Tooting.
Sanders, who left her £90,000-a-year job before Eva was born, was described as being manipulative and controlling, while Vaitkevicius, (pic) who had convictions for violence, admitted he could be aggressive
While Eva was being cared for at the financial consultant was approached by a police officer and said: ‘You’re looking to prosecute me, and I am losing my child, we just having a drink to celebrate’.
Sanders denied drinking heavily after Eva’s birth, claiming she was ‘hyper-vigilant’ with childcare.
But she accepted that the baby may have sustained a head injury while she was changing her.
‘She arched back… Onto the soft changing mat,’ Sanders said when questioned about how Eva could have hit her head if she had been holding her safely..’
Sanders said Vaitkevicius had been feeding Eva on the night she suffered her fatal injuries.
‘I think he went back into the lounge,’ she told the court.
‘I went to check the baby and she looked lifeless. I scooped her up and screamed.
‘She was lying on her back. She just seemed lifeless. She had milk coming out of her nose and mouth. Her head just slumped forward. I just picked her up and screamed.’
Sanders said she had searched ‘shaking baby’ because her daughter had suffered from tremors.
The couple were both heavy drinkers and Sanders was downing at least three bottles of wine a day.
Vaitkevicius told jurors he had been delighted at the prospect of having a baby despite his feelings towards the mother turning sour.
He said the relationship began he turned up on her doorstep with nowhere else to stay, but problems began to emerge after the summer of 2016.
‘She was angry with everyone with the whole world and I didn’t know how to please her,’ Vaitkevicius said.
The handyman claimed he had always loved his daughter, saying: ‘I always loved her but it wasn’t always possible for me to be with her.’
He said on the night his daughter suffered her fatal injuries he had nipped out into the garden for a cigarette.
‘Then I rolled my cigarette and went to the garden. I go in,’ he said.
Vaitkevicius said it was then Sanders started screaming
‘She was standing, shouting, like calling for help but loudly,’ he said.
Both claimed they had no idea how Eva had sustained her fatal injuries.
A jury today rejected the killers’ stories, convicting them each of causing death of a child.
In July last year the financial consultant had her bail conditions altered so she could visit friends in the city of London.
Then in October she was granted another variation so that she could rent out her home on Airbnb while she stayed at a luxury renovated oasthouse in Wadhurst, East Sussex.
Sanders had her bail changed a third time in May, allowing her to fly abroad to Northern Ireland and stay with her stepmother during the first coronavirus lockdown.
Sanders and Vaitkevicius, of Mitcham, south London, denied but were convicted of causing or allowing the death if a child.
They will return for sentence on 27 November.