43-year-old Darren Burke, who is married with one child, allegedly purchased the abortion pills online and laced Laura Slade's drink in the hopes of inducing a miscarriage. Burke and Slade met in 2005, later embarking on an affair in 2015. Their romance remained a secret, but in November 2020 Slade fell pregnant and met with Burke about their options, according to The Mirror.
During their meeting, Burke reportedly offered Slade a glass of orange juice, which prosecutor Paul Jarvis told the court was "unusual" as he had never made her an offer like that before. "They talked in particular about what name was on the birth certificate for the child and what sort of financial contribution he would make once the child was born. It didn’t lead to any particular resolution – instead Mr Burke's main interest was ensuring Ms Slade drank that orange and water mixture. But she would not," Jarvis told jurors.
"Mr Burke eventually went into the kitchen and poured that drink away and put his coat on and left. His persistence that she should drink it had troubled her," he added, explaining how Slade noticed a residue on the rim of the glass and later confronted Burke, although he denied lacing the drink. Despite this, Slade reported her suspicions to the police and a forensic test carried out on the glass found traces of mifepristone – a drug typically used to bring about an abortion during pregnancy.
"His motive was obvious," the prosecutor claimed to the court. "If Ms Slade had kept the baby, then his double life would have come crashing down around him. There is no way he could have kept the existence of that child a secret from his wife and family."
Burke – who has since been suspended from his position as a deputy director at the Home Office – was later arrested and interviewed by police. At trial, the court heard how during his police interview, Burke explained he had bought the abortion drug online "in case Ms Slade decided she wanted to abort the baby." Although it's unclear through what means the government official purchased the abortion drug online, the 1967 Abortion Act states that an abortion must be authorised by two doctors, meaning it is illegal in England to buy abortion pills online.
Burke's defence team claimed he decided against administering Slade with the pills once she expressed her desire to keep the baby, and instead proposed that he used the glass in question to crush up the pills and dispose of them, resulting in the residue found on the glass.
At the hearing, jurors heard that Slade sadly miscarried the baby just one month after the alleged encounter, but there has been no suggestion that this was related to the incident. The trial continues.
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