A pregnant woman has spoken of the horrifying moment she was beaten in the street by an attacker who told her ‘I’m going to make sure you lose your baby’.
Mum-to-be Leah Caswell, who was out with her partner, was punched by drunken thug Ann Marie Prenelle and had to go to hospital after her ordeal fearing she could lose her baby.
Prenelle, 33, was handed a suspended jail term after pleading guilty to the assault, which happened in busy Blandford Street, in the city centre, at 4pm on Tuesday, June 9.
Today, as her baby is due to be born, attack victim Leah has bravely spoken to the Echo about her ordeal.
She said: “I could have lost my baby.
“All I could think of was to stop her hitting me in the belly.
The defendant was aggressive, shouting ‘I’m going to make sure you lose your babyWitness
“Everyone in the street was trying to pull her off me. I was so scared for my baby.”
Prosecutor Keith Laidlaw told Sunderland Magistrates’ Court that Miss Caswell, 19, had been sitting on a bench outside Poundstretcher with her partner Carl Lawton, 24, when she heard a female voice.
The court heard words were exchanged and Prenelle followed the couple as they began to walk down the street.
A member of the public, who witnessed the incident, said in her statement: “The defendant was aggressive, shouting ‘I’m going to make sure you lose your baby. You’re a smackhead and a drug addict’.”
The witness said the pair were just trying to avoid Prenelle and kept on walking. Miss Caswell then said: “I’m not going to lose my baby, just leave me alone,” while Mr Lawton said: “Look you are just showing yourself up, just go.”
The witness said: “The aggressive female approached the young female who said ‘Get off me, my baby’. She grabbed hold of her hair and kept punching her.
“The male tried to drag her off. At no point did he attack the aggressive female. Everybody in the street was shouting ‘stop it leave her alone’. Members of the public pushed the female away.”
Mr Laidlaw said police arrived and arrested Prenelle.
Miss Caswell said in her statement that she was left ‘dazed’ by the attack. She was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital to be checked over, and was told the baby was unharmed.
“Part of my hair is missing and I have marks to both my eyes and a lump on the side of my head,” she added.
“I can’t understand why this has happened. I’m 19 weeks pregnant and in fear for my baby’s safety due to the stress of the incident.”
Prenelle, of Roker Avenue, pleaded guilty to assault.
Probation officer Alan Cutting, who provided a report into Prenelle’s circumstances, said had been arguing with Miss Caswell on Facebook about her boyfriend and decided to confront her when she came across her in the city centre.
Paul McAlindon, defending, said: “The complainant is pregnant, the question is, does the fact that she is pregnant make her a vulnerable person in terms of the offence.
“The witness said she heard the defendant say ‘I’m going to make sure you lose your baby’.
“The injured party puts a slightly different slant on it, she says the defendant said: ‘You are a bad mother, I’m going to make sure you lose your baby’.
“This is perhaps not a veiled threat about the assault, but rather in terms of social services, that sort of thing.”
Mr McAlindon said that Prenelle, at the time, would drink eight litres of cider and wine a day, and could not remember much of the incident.
“When she found out what had happened, she was absolutely devastated. She was quite sick to her stomach when she realised what could have happened.
“I don’t know whether the complainant has had her child yet or if she is very close.”
He added that Prenelle has now abstained from alcohol for several weeks.
Sentencing her to eight weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for a year, bench chairman Roseanne Forster said: “This was a pregnant, and therefore vulnerable, victim, and we feel that the offence of common assault is so serious that only a custodial sentence is suitable.
“On advice, we are prepared to suspend that sentence on the condition that you do not commit any further offences and comply with the sentence requirements.
“If you commit any further offences you will return to court and will be expected to serve that custodial sentence.”
Prenelle was also told to complete nine months of alcohol treatment and 35 days of specified activity.
She was told to pay £100 in compensation to Miss Caswell, £50 costs and a £150 criminal courts charge.
After the case mum-to-be Leah Caswell, who was today due to give birth to her baby boy, has spoken of her terrifying ordeal.
Miss Caswell, 19, is well aware that things could have been very different after the street assault, during which Prenelle told her she would make sure she lost the baby.
“I could have lost my baby,” she told the Echo after Prenelle walked free from court: “I think she should have got more, really.”
Miss Caswell, who lives in Hendon, with her partner Carl Lawton, had been in the city centre when she was attacked in front of shocked passers-by on an afternoon in June.
“I was in town with my partner and our dog,” she said. “At the time I was 19 weeks pregnant, and we were just sitting on a bench.
“I heard her voice before I saw her. She was drunk.
“I’ve had problems with her before. We have argued online, but it was never really that bad.
“We stood up and my partner picked the dog up and we started to walk away further down the street.
“I heard lots of shouting behind us. She was shouting lots of abuse.
“My partner told her leave because I was 19 weeks pregnant and she said “wait until you’re not pregnant”. Then she hit me.
“Now I think back it’s a bit of a blur. All I could think of was to stop her hitting me in the belly. She was trying to hit me in the belly, but she was drunk and kept missing. Everyone in the street was trying to pull her off me. I was so scared for my baby.”
A shaken-up Miss Caswell went straight to hospital, where she was checked over. Thankfully, the baby was fine, however, she suffered pain for weeks, which she was told was due to internal bruising.
Since the attack Miss Caswell has come across Prenelle several times.
“I saw her in town the other day and she just stood and stared,” she said. “I kept thinking ‘if she hits me now, I’ll go into labour’. It was quite intimidating.”