Father 'smothered baby who kept crying'

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The Independent Online

A father smothered his six-week-old baby to death after he became frustrated with her tears, a court heard today.

David Riches, 46, allegedly killed his daughter Melanin almost 20 years ago by pushing her face down into the upholstery on the sofa in their family home.

Jurors at Norwich Crown Court heard that Riches allegedly confessed to the crime when he met up with his estranged son in 2007.

Riches, formerly of Norwich, Norfolk, but who now lives in Pezens, France, denies killing his daughter on July 3, 1985.

Prosecuting, Sally Howes, QC, said that at the time doctors believed that Melanin died as a result of cot death.

She said: "There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death that were reported to the coroner's officer.

"A post mortem concluded sudden infant death syndrome. That was how the episode remained until 2007."

Ms Howes told the court that by chance Melanin's brother Micah, now 21, reunited with his father in summer 2007 after years apart.

She said the pair talked about the death of Melanin and how Riches behaved towards Micah.

Micah sent Riches a text message asking exactly what happened the day Melanin died.

Ms Howes said Riches replied saying that he picked Melanin up after she started crying. When she would not stop he put her face between the arm and the seat of the sofa.

"He told Micah he had done some really bad things when he was younger and he had put them behind him but he was really sorry and he had changed," said Ms Howes.

Eventually Micah decided to go to the police.

"The police investigation unearthed a catalogue of abuse towards women and children," said Ms Howes.

"His reign of callous cruelty that lasted for almost two decades and began with the murder of baby Melanin."

The court heard that Riches was "unpleasant" when he heard that his first wife was pregnant with Micah.

Jurors were told that when he was born in June 1988, Riches used to put his cot in a cupboard and complain whenever he heard the baby wail.

Ms Howes said that Riches would quieten Micah by putting his hand over his mouth and pinching his nose. She said Riches did this so the baby would struggle and tire and eventually go to sleep.

Micah also suffered a fractured skull as a child which was a result of an attack from his father, said Ms Howes.

Riches denies murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter. He also denies five counts of child cruelty and six assaults. The charges relate to a number of women and children.

The trial continues.