A young mother accused of murdering her baby with salt broke down in tears yesterday when she described to a jury her last hours with her son.

Marianne Williams told Winchester Crown Court how she cuddled 15-month-old Joshua Taylor in her arms before doctors switched off his life support machine.

Williams (24), denies the murder of Joshua in 2004 by giving him salt or sodium, and an alternative charge of manslaughter.

The prosecution allege she murdered Joshua because she could not cope with looking after him after he was born prematurely with kidney failure and a host of other serious ailments, which required considerable care.

Giving evidence, Williams cried as she said she had bought the youngster toys and stayed with him along with her partner Paul Taylor all through his last night and day.

"They put him in a side room and I was with him up until they turned it off, I couldn't do the formal identification, so Paul did that but I stayed until then," she said.

The court heard that at the time, police had already searched the couple's home because doctors had raised concerns that Joshua had been poisoned when he was admitted to Southampton General Hospital on February 24 2004.

Earlier, the court heard that Joshua died in hospital three days after the salt in his body caused brain damage. Tests showed he had very high levels of sodium in his body, which the prosecution allege Williams gave him through his feeding tube.

Williams, of Wiltshire, was 21 when Joshua - who was born 12 weeks prematurely - died and in a long-term relationship with his father, Paul Taylor.

He weighed 2lb 10oz (1.2kg) at birth and had a number of medical problems.

The case continues.