Father watching TV ‘fatally hurt baby daughter’

Mark Lackenby at Sheffield Crown Court.  Picture: Ross Parry AgencyMark Lackenby at Sheffield Crown Court.  Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Mark Lackenby at Sheffield Crown Court. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
A five-week-old baby girl died from a head injury allegedly caused by her father as he watched football on television, a court heard yesterday.

Ruby Lackenby collapsed and stopped breathing before she was rushed to hospital but doctors could not revive her and she died the next day.

Sheffield Crown Court heard the baby had suffered brain damage, bleeding around the brain and doctors also discovered she had two broken ribs caused about a week earlier.

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Prosecutor Bryan Cox QC told a jury the baby’s father Mark Lackenby, 32, was alone with the child while its mother, his partner Gemma Coates, had a bath upstairs.

“Mr Lackenby was alone with the girl watching football on television,” said Mr Cox. “The prosecution case is that Mark Lackenby inflicted the injury that caused the sudden collapse that led to Ruby’ death.”

Rail worker Lackenby, of High Street, Goldthorpe, South Yorkshire, denies murdering the infant and causing her grievous bodily harm with intent in the week before her death.

Coates, 31, a former nursery worker, of the same address, denies attempting to pervert the course of justice by giving a false account to medical staff as to how Ruby came about her injuries.

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Mr Cox said Coates called an ambulance at 8.37pm on February 16, 2011. She said the baby was not breathing and her boyfriend was performing CPR.

Paramedics took over but after being transferred to Sheffield Children’s Hospital Ruby died 24 hours later when her life support was removed.

Investigations found Ruby was a perfectly normal baby with no health problems and there was nothing to explain her sudden collapse. But during a post-mortem examination, a pathologist found bleeding around the surface of her brain and brain damage “consistent with non-accidental head injury”, according to Mr Cox.

There was also evidence of an earlier assault when two broken ribs were found. This was dated by experts to about a week before the fatal incident and was “consistent with very forceful gripping”. Further bleeding around the brain probably at the time of the rib fractures was also discovered.

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“This bleed together with the rib fractures indicated an assault about seven days before death and before the assault that caused her death,” said Mr Cox. “There were two separate independent episodes of violence.”

The prosecution claims Lackenby was responsible for the broken ribs assault as “it is inconceivable that two different people inflicted serious assault on Ruby within seven days.”

It is alleged Coates lied to doctors and later to the police. “She changed her account as time progressed,” said Mr Cox. “Her motive in not telling the truth was to protect Mark Lackenby.”

Neither midwives, health visitors or the local GP expressed any concerns over Ruby’s care before the tragedy and one professional said “she seemed to be thriving.”

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Paramedic Andrew Dunn found Lackenby performing CPR on Ruby. The baby was “motionless and blue” and her eyes were fixed and she was not breathing.

Coates told him the baby had awoken and stopped breathing five minutes earlier. She said the child had not fallen.

No external bruises were found on the baby at hospital and the parents told doctors she had taken her feed, slept then awoken crying at 8.30pm. The baby then went floppy in Coates’s arms and stopped breathing, she said.

She said there was no cough or fit and the baby’s legs started shaking. But a day later she changed her story telling another doctor the baby awoke 45 minutes earlier.

Pathologists dated the bleeding on the brain to having been caused 24 hours before death and that “the most likely cause of this was a traumatic head injury”.

The trial continues.