The father of Baby P yesterday told for the first time how the death of his son destroyed his life as he battled with feelings of anger and guilt at the horrific abuse the child suffered.
The man, who cannot be named, told in heartbreaking detail the moment he was confronted with the sight of his dead son's body and said that his life became a "living nightmare". The man, who split from Baby Peter's mother when the child was five months old, explained how he was unable to work after the tragedy and said he turned to alcohol to "blot out the pain".
His revelations came in a victim impact statement read out at the Old Bailey yesterday as the judge heard submissions from legal teams ahead of the sentencing of the baby's killers today.
The boy's 27-year-old mother, her 32-year-old boyfriend and their lodger Jason Owen, 37, have been told to expect lengthy jail sentences after being convicted of causing or allowing the death of a child in November. The boyfriend will also be sentenced for the rape of a two-year-old girl for which he was found guilty earlier this month.
As well as the father's statement, a letter was also read to the court on behalf of the the mother of Peter. In the letter, hand-written from her cell in Holloway Prison, she says she will never forgive herself for her son's death and accepts she will be jailed.
The court was reminded of Peter's extensive catalogue of injuries. They were told that the boy, who was 17 months old when he died in August 2007, had part of his left ear missing, possibly caused by being hung by the ears. The tip of his tongue had been removed as had the tip of his right index finger, all of his fingernails and some of his toenails.
His back was broken – the court heard this was likely due to hyperextension from being stretched over a knee or a banister – as were seven of his ribs. His lower left incisor tooth was also missing, the court was told; the result of a fierce blow to his head the day before he died. The tooth was found in his stomach during the post mortem.
"My son must have suffered weeks if not months of pain, fear and loneliness with nobody to help or comfort him," said Peter's father. "No human being, and especially a child, deserves to suffer like Peter suffered in the last days and weeks of his life."
Peter's father's statement told of the last time he saw his son alive: "When I returned Peter to [his mother's] care I remember him screaming and shouting 'Daddy, daddy' so much so that [his mother] actually brought him back to me to say 'goodbye' again and give him a cuddle. I have to live now with the knowledge that Peter was actually screaming for me to help him. He did not want to go home because this was a place that he associated with pain and suffering."
And it told of the day he arrived at the hospital to learn his son was dead: "I saw his little, limp body just laying there, naked except for a nappy. I could not believe what was happening, I could not believe that was my son. He appeared to be asleep and I just wanted to pick him up and take him home. But, there was nothing I could [do] for him. This nightmare scene was real and all I could do was kiss him on his forehead and said 'goodbye'. My son was gone forever."
Peter's father said he comforted the boy's mother at the hospital as she blamed herself for what happened and apologised. He said that when she was arrested he reassured her that it was just procedure, not believing she could have abused their son. When the case came to trial, he said he felt compelled to attend court. "I owed that to Peter."
The statement ended: "Like all fathers I had imagined watching my son grow up, playing football with him, taking him to see Arsenal play, watching him open his Christmas and birthday presents and just develop as a person. All of that has been taken from me."
The judge, Stephen Kramer, also heard mitigation from each of the defendants' barristers. Paul Mendelle QC, for Peter's mother, said that his client was an "immature and uneducated woman", but not "a cruel mother".
He said she was not the main abuser – blaming her boyfriend. But added that she had suffered at the hands of her fellow prisoners. He said she was moved to solitary confinement for her own safety because of "the sanctimonious attitude of those who rob, steal, rape and kill, yet somehow regard themselves as morally superior to an inadequate mother who allowed herself to fall in love with the wrong man."
Bernard Richmond QC, on behalf of her boyfriend, said the man he represented had the lowest IQ of all the defendants and that, in taking on the role of Peter's guardian, he was "placed in a situation he was ill-equipped for". The barrister told the judge that, because of "difficulties" his client had suffered during his upbringing, "you may come to the view that the situation was a disaster waiting to happen".
Jason Owen's barrister, Timothy Roberts QC, said that his client had not taken part in the abuse and that his crime was "failing to report to the authorities the suspicions that he ought to have had as to how Peter was coming by his injuries".
Regrets: The mother's letter
I am writing this as I am not sure of a better way to express my regret at failing my children. I except [ sic] I failed my son Peter, for which I pleaded guilty. By not being fully open with the social workers I stopped them from being able to do a full job. As a direct result of this my son got hurt and sadly lost his short life. I am never going to see my lovely son grow into the lovely sweet man I believe he would have been. I have lost all I hold dear to me. Now every day of my life is full of guilt and trying to come to terms with my failure as a mother.
I punish myself on a daily basis and there is not a day that goes by where I do not cry at some point. I have let down my family, my ex husband, myself and most importantly my darling son. Whilst I appreciate I am going to be given a custodial sentence I would like to say sorry. I can only hope and pray my family, my ex husband included, can one day forgive me for my mistakes. However I can never forgive myself for my shortcomings. I am truly sorry.