A dad who murdered his 16-day-old baby daughter by “repeatedly punching” or “slamming” her during a sickening attack at their home has been jailed for 25 years.
Matthew Higham, 23, from Stockport, pleaded guilty to killing Florence Liberty Mae Higham at Preston Crown Court on the first day of his trial.
Prosecutor Mr Gordon Cole QC said the little girl had received “extensive injuries” at the hands of her father.
A pathologist said it could not be ruled out that he infant was also kicked or stamped on.
Florence was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport but was pronounced dead at 8.38pm on July 29 last year.
The court was told that Higham had been looking after the baby while Florence’s mother Sharon Collins visited a sick relative in hospital.
Mr Cole said that Higham was to make an emergency 999 call at 8.06pm saying that his daughter was “bleeding out of her nose, mouth and ears” but denied that Florence had sustained any trauma while with him.
He initially described to police how Florence had begun to bleed as he fed her, before stopping breathing.
Higham has maintained that he has no account of what happened or how he caused the injuries which included multiple skull and rib fractures, facial injuries and bruising, resulting in acute brain damage.
She also suffered internal injuries and organ damage including a lacerated liver.
Mr Cole said:
“It’s right to say that Florence died as a result of these multiple injuries. Stating the obvious, a newborn baby is completely dependent on parents.
“These injuries reveal the extent of the injuries extending towards Florence by her father. Still there is no account from him as to how he caused these injuries.
“The injuries sustained were extensive and of course would have had no chance of recovery.”
During the case, Higham remained with his head in his hands as Miss Collins cried.
The court was told that the findings of a post-mortem examination, conducted by Dr Naomi Carter at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, were consistent with repeated punches to the face or repeatedly being slammed against a hard surface.
Pathologist Dr Carter said she could not rule out that Florence was also kicked, squeezed or stamped on.
Fingertip bruises were also found on the little girl’s arms, legs and chest indicating that she had been “gripped and pinched with considerable force”.
Following a two-day investigation at the home, officers concluded that the assault had taken place around the sofa before the youngster was moved throughout the house as she continued to bleed.
The court heard that Higham had made an attempt to clean the house before emergency services arrived.
Blood-stained clothing was found in the dustbin.
Following his arrest later that night, he was to provide a statement denying his involvement in the death of his “perfect” baby, adding it had been “out of the blue”.
The statement said: “I’m not responsible for the death of my lovely little girl Florence. She was the light of my eyes. I have not shook her or dropped her.”
Mr Benjamin Nolan QC for Higham said: “He does not remember the actual events of the killing.”
In passing sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum term of 25 years, Mr Justice Kerr said that the “evil done” by Higham in the “brutal and frenzied attack” was greater than in other cases he had considered.
“You battered her to death, her injuries were horrifying.
“It was a crime of such unspeakable violence it is difficult to understand how any human being could do such a thing.
“You say you do not remember doing it. Whether or not that is true, by your plea of guilty to the murder of your baby daughter you have accepted, very late, that you inflicted those injuries on her with the intention of killing her or doing her really serious harm.”
The court was earlier told that two days prior to Florence’s death social services had reduced the level of association with the family due to a “decreased level of concern”.
The court was told that Higham’s previous conviction of an offence of battery in May 2014 was “not irrelevant” as it was committed only a short time before the murder.
Mr Justice Kerr added:
“The victim was a baby barely two weeks old, defenceless and completely dependent on you.
“You still say you do not remember what happened, but now you accept that you intended to kill or cause really serious harm to Florence.
“Only this morning did you finally accept that the game was up and that the trial need not proceed.”