Parents who caused death of their baby jailed after father showed ‘no remorse’

Ava Mae Collard died in hospital after suffering fractures to her ribs, collarbone and femur as well as severe trauma to her head

Holly Evans
Thursday 27 July 2023 16:26 BST
Five-month-old Ava Mae Collard was found to have multiple injuries after she died in March 2020 (Staffordshire Police/PA)
Five-month-old Ava Mae Collard was found to have multiple injuries after she died in March 2020 (Staffordshire Police/PA)

A mother and father have been jailed for causing the death of their five-month-old baby daughter who died at their home in Stafford.

Rebecca Grocott, 27, and Joshua Collard, 30, called emergency services on 27 February 2020 to report that Ava Mae Collard was in cardiac arrest.

Paramedics and police officers rushed to the family home in Stone and Ava Mae was taken to hospital, where she died on 1 March 2020.

Ava Mae died in hospital a few days after she was rushed to hospital
Ava Mae died in hospital a few days after she was rushed to hospital (GoFundMe)

Both Grocott and Collard, who was described as a “violent, ill-tempered misogynist”, were unable to explain what had happened and following initial enquiries, they were arrested on 25 March.

A post-mortem examination found multiple fractures to Ava Mae’s ribs, collar bone and femur, while she had also suffered severe trauma to the side of her head which had caused an injury to her ear.

She was severely underweight and found to have 28 rib fractures, with bruises across her scalp, face, legs and arms.

Toxicology reports also showed Ava Mae had been exposed to cannabis, with the court hearing that Collard grew his own cannabis and had returned to the family home to remove the plants and associated equipment while his daughter was in critical care in hospital.

Following a five-week trial at Stafford Crown Court, Collard, of Stafford, and Grocott, of Stone, were found guilty of causing the girl’s death.

On Thursday, Collard was jailed for 11 years while Grocott received an eight year prison sentence.

Judge Mr Justice Cotter KC said he had seen “no evidence of any remorse” from Collard for what had happened, but accepted that Grocott was remorseful.

He added that Ava Mae would have suffered “pain and misery throughout her short life”.

Rebecca Grocott and Joshua Collard have both been jailed
Rebecca Grocott and Joshua Collard have both been jailed (Staffordshire Police)

Grocott, wearing a black and white dress, occasionally wiped away tears as she sat in the dock and listened to proceedings, while Collard, wearing a grey tracksuit, did not show any emotion other than to shake his head.

Other offences included causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child and two counts of assaulting, ill-treating, neglecting or abandoning a child or a young person to cause unnecessary suffering or injury.

Sentencing the pair, the judge said they are the only ones who know what really happened to their daughter, but that her injuries were consistent with her ribs being “squeezed”.

He told them: “Both of you have lied about events that happened in Ava’s short life. She was grasped so tightly she couldn’t breathe and her heart stopped.

“After a heart attack, she would have been unresponsive in seconds. Neither of you have told the whole truth about what happened.”

Describing Collard as a misogynist who “ruled the house” and was more interested in cannabis and his dog than his own daughter, he said: “You lost interest in her when you learned before her birth that she was a girl.”

Addressing Grocott, the judge said: “Your description of yourself as a brilliant mum is far from the truth. You had suspicions that Joshua Collard was injuring Ava. You realised there were unexplained bruises.

“If you did not cause them, you must have known who did. You knew Joshua Collard was ill-tempered and had assaulted you, but you repeatedly lied to social services and the police.

“I accept you have a lack of maturity and a low IQ. You are a woman of good character. You were desperate to marry and have children. I accept you were frightened of Joshua Collard.”

In a statement released after the sentencing, Peter Grice, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Ava Mae did not die a natural death and suffered such heinous injuries over time, including repeated exposure to cannabis.

“Joshua Collard and Rebecca Grocott should have loved and nurtured their baby and neither of them took steps to protect her.

“While there is no sentencing outcome that can bring Ava Mae back to her loved ones, I hope today’s sentencing brings her wider family some closure. My deepest sympathy to them all.”

Detective Constable Emily Hanlon, of Staffordshire Police’s Child Protection and Exploitation Team, said: “This was a truly tragic case in which [a] five-month-old [girl] died as a result of the actions of two people who should have protected her.

“I would like to thank all of those involved in securing justice for [the girl].”

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