A dad killed his baby boy by violently shaking him after the child's mum previously covered up his abuse.

Mihai-Catalin Gulie inflicted irreparable brain damage on six-month-old Robert Ion when his mum had gone out to a shop.

But prosecutors said it wasn't the first time Robert - who was born with Down's Syndrome - had been attacked by his dad.

READ MORE: Children were failed in every conceivable way by their cruel mum

His mum Gabriela Ion previously tried to cover up the baby's bruises - and injuries including broken ribs - with toothpaste.

She admitted doing so, but said she didn't foresee the fatal attack and blamed her husband for the killing.

Gulie, 28, and Ion, 35, both denied any wrongdoing in a 14-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

This morning Gulie was found guilty of murder and Ion was convicted of causing or allowing the death of their child.

They showed no emotion when jurors returned the unanimous verdicts after three hours and 44 minutes of deliberation.

Police were informed Robert had become unresponsive at his home in Widnes at 1.05pm on Thursday, February 18 this year.

The little boy was taken to hospital, where he died from his injuries three days later on February 21.

Robert Ion, aged six months, was murdered by his dad Mihai-Catalin Gulie while his mum Gabriela Ion allowed his death.
Robert Ion, aged six months, was murdered by his dad Mihai-Catalin Gulie while his mum Gabriela Ion allowed his death.

The trial heard Robert had battled a range of medical complications and spent most of his tragically short life in hospital.

He had only returned to live with his parents and two-year-old sister at their address in Mersey Road just before Christmas.

Nicholas Johnson, QC, prosecuting, said Robert suffered catastrophic injuries at the hands of Gulie, who was alone in the house while Ion and their daughter had gone to a nearby corner shop.

He said Gulie forcefully shook his son, probably impacting his head too, which caused extensive internal bleeding and over-stretching of vulnerable structures inside Robert's brain and spinal cord, quickly leading to a heart attack.

Mr Johnson said: "It is not entirely clear why Robert's father did it, but it wasn't the first time he had been violent to his son.

"Robert was born with Down's Syndrome and had other medical requirements such as feeding him through a tube into his stomach. His need for medical treatment in hospital had caused significant disruption and debt.

"Whatever the cause, subsequent investigations showed that, about 10 days before he was fatally attacked, Robert had suffered two fractured ribs and a bleed on the brain, which are classic signs of a previous forceful shaking.

"And this was a previous assault which Robert's mother was not only aware of but, rather than telling family and friends who lived close by or doctors or the police about the obvious risk of serious injury to him, covered up Robert's bruising with toothpaste and kept secret what was going on, until it was too late."

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The jury was told a neighbour had overheard frequent noisy arguments between the parents after the birth of Robert.

On the morning of the fatal attack, Gulie had emailed the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) to ask about reclaiming some £4,000, which he said they had paid in taxis when visiting Robert in hospital.

By the time CAB responded around 15 minutes later, Robert had been subjected to the fatal attack.

A few minutes after he was rushed to Whiston Hospital, Gulie continued the conversation with CAB, later telling them "the child is in hospital again, he went breathless, was about to die".

The trial heard the couple moved from their native Romania to Widnes, where Ion had family, in 2019.

Gulie - who gave evidence through an interpreter as he doesn't speak English - denied killing Robert.

John Benson QC, defending, Ion, said: "The sad reality is that on the morning of February 18, you lost your temper and you shook little Robert and probably threw him down on the sofa.

"You were responsible for the injuries that later claimed his life. No doubt you bitterly regret it and wish you could turn the clock back.

"But you can't admit it."

Gulie replied: "How could I admit to something I haven't done?"

The dad said the only time he used violence against Robert was when he "slapped him gently on the bottom" and dropped him a short height onto some pillows.

Gulie accepted he was "tired" from work and the baby's non-stop crying had caused him to lose his temper.

He also admitted he had once "forcefully pushed" Ion because she hadn't cooked a meal for him on his return from work, and also slapped his daughter's bottom once.

Gulie claimed he noticed Robert had turned yellow and stopped breathing while "sitting with him on the sofa and watching TV".

He told the jury: "I don't know what happened to him. I was watching TV and when I stood up, he was yellow in the face and breathless. I didn't even touch him or put my hands on him."

Gulie denied he "lost his temper easily" and said his relationship with his partner was "very good" and they rarely argued.

Pictured is Liverpool Crown Court

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Under cross-examination by Mr Johnson, Gulie admitted he had "slapped" Robert once on the bottom and "thrown him down on the bed" even though he knew "he had to be held like porcelain".

Gulie said: "I was tired and angry, yes."

The dad said he used the phrase he had "the devil inside him" when he lost his temper, but added: "That was the only time the devil got inside me."

Gulie denied he had "minimised" the violence he had used towards his partner and to Robert.

High Court judge Mrs Justice Amanda Yip said the couple will be sentenced on November 26 and remanded them both in custody.

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