Update (19th March):
Michael Roe will serve a minimum of 19 years for murdering his baby daughter. Holly’s mother, Tiffany Tate, has been jailed for two years and nine months for allowing her death.
A man who shook his baby to death has been convicted of her murder. A jury found the baby’s mother guilty of allowing the death of a child.
Michael Roe, 33, of Alderbrook Close, Crowborough, faced a murder trial at Hove Crown Court after the initial trial in March 2020 was abandoned at the outbreak of the Covid virus and in November 2020 during the second trial, the jury was dismissed following an irregularity.
A third trial was scheduled. Proceedings opened on 3rd February 2021.
Brain injuries and multiply rib fractures
The court heard that eight-week-old Holly Roe had suffered brain injuries at least three times leading up to her death in September 2018. She had also sustained 12 fractures to her rib cage before ambulance paramedics were called to a report of her having breathing difficulties. They found her cold and unresponsive and rushed her to Pembury Hospital, where she was sadly pronounced dead. A post mortem showed that the cause of death was a traumatic head injury.
The jury was told that the final head injuries would have left Holly unconscious, despite extreme pain caused by her fractured ribs.
Her mother Tiffany Tate, 22, along with Roe, faced a charge of causing or allowing the death of a child. Tate was only 19 when Holly was born two months premature, and had only recently left care. She had faced a charge of murder, but the trial judge in the second trial instructed a not guilty verdict be returned and the indictment was amended for the third trial.
Today (Wednesday 17th), the jury returned their verdict finding Roe guilty of murder.
They also found Tiffany Tate guilty of allowing the death of a child.
Both will be sentenced on Friday (19th March).
Detective Superintendent Emma Heater from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said:
Holly Roe was only eight weeks old when she died having been found unconscious at her home address by her parents. An examination discovered that Holly had a fatal head injury as well as numerous rib fractures.
The people who should have been caring for Holly have today been found guilty of offences relating to her death. Michael Roe, her father, has been found guilty of murder and her mother, Tiffany Tate, has been found guilty of causing or allowing the death of Holly.
These cases are always very difficult for everyone: the extended family and people who knew Holly during her very short life, the medical teams that responded to this incident and my colleagues who conducted the investigation.
I would like to thank all of those witnesses who gave evidence and also the jury who have listened to harrowing detail and taken time to consider the evidence carefully before reaching their verdict.Detective Superintendent Emma Heater
Although Roe denied ever shaking Holly, he was the last to see her alive and evidence from his partner showed that he had no patience with his daughter, on one occasion attempting to feed her through her nose with a syringe.
Less than a week before Holly’s death, she stopped breathing and Roe had to do mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on her, but he warned his partner not to tell the police after Holly was rushed to hospital.
The case was prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service’s South East Complex Casework Unit.
Libby Clark from the Crown Prosecution Service said:
This is an absolutely tragic case involving a tiny, premature baby who had barely any time out of hospital before her death.
When she was brought home by her parents, she was then subjected to appalling injuries on more than one occasion, the effects of which would have been noticed immediately by anyone caring for Holly. Instead, both her mother and father claimed that there was nothing wrong with her prior to her death.
Evidence from the medical experts in this case showed that Holly’s injuries were consistent with the previous incidents and demonstrated a pattern of behavior by Michael Roe. He was alone with his daughter at feeding time, had little patience and a tendency to lose his temper.
Despite being aware of what had happened previously to her daughter and knowing that Michael Roe was responsible, Tiffany Tate failed to alert the authorities. Instead she chose to expose her daughter to the continued risk that Roe posed.Libby Clark from the Crown Prosecution Service
Last year the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership published a briefing for professionals and agencies about infant injury. It contains seven recommendations and stresses the importance of full investigations of all injuries to infants, in line with ‘Unexplained injuries to Young Children‘ procedure and enhanced support for care leavers when they become parents.
Reg Hooke, Chair of the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership, said:
In line with procedure we have carried out a serious case review following the extremely sad death of this very young girl to see if there are any lessons that can be learned from the tragedy.
There are some parts of the report that could not be finalised while the criminal process was on-going. We will now complete the report and we will publish the findings as soon as we are able. Although the report has not yet been published, all agencies have taken actions in response to learning we have identified in it.Reg Hooke, Chair of the East Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership