Man who crushed eight-week-old daughter's skull is jailed for life

 

A father who killed his eight-week-old baby by crushing her skull when he was left in charge of her for just 20 minutes has been told he must serve a minimum of 13 years in prison.

West Yorkshire Police confirmed Richard Barnes was found guilty of murdering baby Grace today at Leeds Crown Court.

Senior officers called the case "a tragedy".

Jurors heard how Barnes had secretly drunk whisky and vodka before he was left with his daughter.

After she suffered the devastating injuries, he went out to buy more alcohol rather than call an ambulance.

Barnes, 27, caused the injuries in November last year at the family home in Crowther Street, Castleford, West Yorkshire.

Prosecutors told his trial it was still unclear how and why the Haribo sweets machine operator inflicted the head injuries from which Grace died four days later.

A pathologist concluded Barnes either kicked or stamped on the back of her head, or he may have crushed her skull by pressing it against a hard surface such as a floor.

The jury heard there were no concerns about Grace's care during her short life and the family home Barnes shared with Stephanie Rudd, his partner since 2006, was "spotless".

But Barnes had a drink problem which he hid from Ms Rudd and he secretly drank at least four miniature bottles of whisky, two vodka miniatures and two beers before the attack on Grace.

The court heard how he filmed himself in his bathroom drinking two whiskies that lunchtime, saying "pretty strong is that" before belching loudly.

After the attack, he went to buy two more miniatures rather than ring 999, the jury heard.

Ms Rudd was away for 20 minutes while she drove her mother home.

As soon as she got back, Barnes called out to her saying he clashed heads with Grace after she was sick while he fed her.

Later, he told his father Kevin: "I've fallen on her dad."

In court he claimed their heads collided as he went to put her over his shoulder to prevent her from choking on her own vomit.

Ms Rudd's mother had scolded Barnes about drinking a beer before he was left in charge of Grace, the jury heard.

Prosecutors said it was possible he may have been frustrated by this and also at being called home from a Christmas shopping trip with friends to look after this baby.

"Did his temper boil over and did he take it out on Grace?" Richard Mansell QC, prosecuting, told the jury.

But, in a statement read in court, Ms Rudd said: "Richard has only ever been brilliant with Grace and me since she was born. He is a very proud dad."

They remain in a relationship, the court was told during the trial.

Barnes denied murder but was found guilty by a jury after a short deliberation. He was jailed for life by the judge, Mr Justice Cooke, who ordered him to serve a minimum of 13 years before he is considered for release.

After today's hearing, Detective Superintendent Paul Taylor, who led the police inquiry, 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 an end."

PA

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