Father given life for murder of his baby girl

Grace Barnes.
Grace Barnes.
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A FATHER has been has been jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering his baby daughter by inflicting horrific head injuries upon her.

Richard Barnes, 27, was told yesterday he must serve a minimum of 13 years in prison before he can be considered for parole over the death of eight-week old Grace.

A jury of six men and six women took less than three hours to return a unanimous verdict following the trial at Leeds Crown Court.

The trial heard Barnes had been secretly drinking whisky and vodka before attacking Grace when he was left to care for her for just 20 minutes while his partner, Stephanie Rudd, went out.

Mr Justice Cooke told Barnes that he considered him to be a loving parent but must have carried out the attack in “second or two of blind rage”.

He said: “The exact circumstances in which you came to assault your daughter, and the form that that assault took will never be known unless you reveal it.

“The situation is tragic for all members of the family. You are a man of good character. You were 26 years old at the time and a proud and devoted father.

“You would in ordinary circumstances, I am sure, never dream of harming your baby daughter.

“You loved her and you proved to be a good parent, taking a full part in bathing and changing and feeding her.”

The prosecution claimed Barnes may have lost his temper when Grace was sick on him or would not stop crying while he was looking after her at the family home on Crowther Street, Castleford.

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,

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

After the attack, Barnes went to buy more alcohol from a local shop without summoning help for his daughter who was in need of urgent medical help.

Minutes later when Ms Rudd returned home, she found Barnes back at the house holding their daughter who was pale and floppy.

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

Barnes, a Haribo sweet factory worker, gave evidence at the trial where he claimed he had accidentally clashed heads with Grace as he was feeding her.

He said she began to vomit and fearing she would choke, picked her up “too fast” and they “banged heads”.

He told the jury: “It was the equivalent to being punched, like if you head a football hard. It made my ears ring”.

The trial heard Ms Rudd, a support worker for people with mental health issues, is still in a relationship with Barnes. She wept as she sat in court with family members as Barnes was sentenced.

After the hearing Det Supt Paul Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police’s Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “This is a tragedy for the family who are devastated by their loss. I am relieved for them that the court process has come to a end.”