‘Despicable’ father jailed after football bet tantrum kills baby

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AN angry father who “snapped” and inflicted fatal injuries on his five-week-old daughter after losing a bet on a Champions League football game, has been jailed for 10 years.

A jury heard how Mark Lackenby “flipped” when David Villa scored for Barcelona against Arsenal after he had bet on the London team to score the first goal.

Lackenby shook his newborn daughter Ruby so violently as he watched the televised match she suffered brain damage and bleeding on the brain. She died the next day when her life support had to be switched off.

The 32-year-old, who claimed he had no idea why she had collapsed and stopped breathing, was found guilty of manslaughter by a jury at Sheffield Crown Court. He was also found guilty of causing Ruby grievous bodily harm when he broke her ribs a week or so before he inflicted the fatal injuries.

Sentencing Lackenby, judge Mr Justice Haddon-Cave told him: “It’s frankly despicable and defies belief that anyone could do such a thing to their own baby in such circumstances.”

The court heard Lackenby, of High Street, Goldthorpe, Barnsley, bet £2.50 at odds of 70-1 on Robin van Persie to score the first goal, and Arsenal to win the match 2-1 on February 16, 2011.

He stood to win £200 but when Villa scored Ruby, who was on the sofa next to him, cried and Lackenby lost his temper. The judge told him: “At 8.11pm that evening David Villa, a Barcelona player scored the first goal.

“At around that time Ruby was heard to cry. It is clear that at that moment you shook her violently causing catastrophic brain and nerve injuries which led her to collapse very quickly.”

The court heard neither paramedics nor doctors could revive the infant when she was rushed to hospital. She suffered brain damage and bleeding around the brain and medics also found she had three broken ribs caused about a week earlier.

Bryan Cox, QC, prosecuting, said Lackenby had been alone with the baby while her mother, his partner Gemma Coates, took a bath.

Rail worker Lackenby was found not guilty of murdering Ruby but was convicted of an alternative count of manslaughter.

Coates, 31, a former nursery worker, of the same address, was cleared by the jury of attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving a false account to medical staff as to how Ruby came about her injuries. She left the dock in tears.

Investigations found Ruby was a normal baby who had been “thriving” and there was nothing initially to explain her collapse.

When paramedic Andrew Dunn arrived at their home, he found Lackenby performing CPR on Ruby with Coates relaying instructions from the operator. The baby was “motionless and blue”.

The parents told doctors Ruby had taken her feed, slept, then awoken crying at 8.30pm. They said the baby went floppy in Coates’ arms and stopped breathing.

But scans at the Children’s Hospital revealed the bleeding on the brain and damage to the brain itself. Further tests after death also showed five small bruises to the back of the skull and one bruise on top which were only visible internally.

Pathologists dated the bleeding on the brain to having been caused 24 hours before death.

Lackenby told the court Ruby had not shown any signs of illness before she collapsed. “She was perfectly fine, such a beautiful little girl.”

When asked if he assaulted her he replied: “The only thing I did was try to save her life, that’s all I did.”

He said he was at work when Ruby sustained her rib fractures. “I don’t know who had Ruby, who had hold of her. I just don’t know.”

The judge said that despite witnesses saying Lackenby, who has three other children from a previous relationship, was a loving and caring father, there was evidence he had harmed baby Ruby on other occasions.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said: “It was not a momentary loss of control or isolated but something which must be placed in its context of a growing pattern. These were incidents of temper.”