Father denies murdering baby who died from crushed skull

A FATHER crushed his eight-week-old baby daughter’s skull when he was left caring for her for just 20 minutes after secretly drinking whisky and vodka, a murder trial jury heard.

Richard Barnes then went to buy more alcohol from a local shop without summoning help for his daughter Grace, who needed urgent medical assistance for her devastating injuries, Richard Mansell QC prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court yesterday.

Minutes later when his partner Stephanie Rudd returned to their home in Crowther Street, Castleford, she found Barnes back at the house holding their daughter who was pale and floppy.

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He told her while feeding the baby she had been sick and he had accidentally clashed heads with her.

Grace was rushed to hospital by ambulance and found to have extensive skull fractures, dying four days later.

Barnes subsequently told relatives in addition to the clash of heads he also accidentally fell on the baby.

Mr Mansell said, however, the pathologist who carried out a post-mortem examination on Grace and a consultant neuropathologist concluded severe force had been applied to cause the injuries, with the latter believing her skull had been crushed by a massive impact to the left side. Barnes, 27, denies murdering his daughter in November last year. Mr Mansell told the jury the prosecution could not say precisely how he did it. “However, we say there is no doubt that he did cause those injuries in a deliberate and unlawful assault upon his daughter during a short period when he was in sole charge of Grace.”

“Either he inflicted them by striking one or more direct blows to the rear of Grace’s head, such as by kicking or stamping, or more likely he crushed her skull by applying force to the front of her head, whilst the rear was pressed against a hard surface, such as a floor.”

He said: “Again this could have been by a stamp.

“Either way, when he inflicted these injuries he can only have intended to cause her really serious bodily harm and therefore the prosecution alleges he is guilty of her murder.”

There were no previous concerns about her care during her short life. “Probably the first thought which will be going through your heads is why? Why would anyone deliberately injure a baby? Why would a father, who appeared to everyone to love his child very much have done this to her?”

He said “the evidence points to his having a drink problem which he was hiding from his partner.”

Barnes had a habit of purchasing miniature bottles of spirit from a local shop and on that Saturday, November 19, he bought six containing whisky or vodka, filming himself on his mobile phone drinking two of them.

He had also drunk at least one beer before he was left with Grace while Miss Rudd drove her mother home.

Mr Mansell said it was a lot of alcohol when taking care of a young baby and the Crown would say drink certainly played a part in what happened.

Barnes might also have been frustrated at having to come home from Christmas shopping to look after her.

“Did his temper boil over and did he take it out on Grace?” asked Mr Mansell.

It was after Grace’s death he first told his father Kevin he had also fallen on the baby.

The trial continues.