May 2014

Matthew Wickens jailed for Devon baby throwing death

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A man who killed his crying baby by throwing him so violently into his cot that he suffered massive head injuries has been jailed.

Matthew Wickens, 24, tried to cover up five-week-old Rilee Gardener’s head injury by putting a hat on him, Exeter Crown Court heard.

He did not raise the alarm or try to get help

Rilee was found “lifeless and cold” by his mother, in November 2012.

Wickens, formerly of Paignton, now of Waltham Road, Newton Abbot admitted manslaughter and was jailed for six years and five months.

Simon Laws QC, prosecuting, said that by shaking Rilee and throwing him into his cot, Wickens had caused him serious head injuries.

When Rilee’s mother, returned home Wickens pretended the baby was safe and asleep, Mr Laws said.

It was only when she became concerned about how long he had been silent that she found him collapsed in his cot, the court heard.

Wickens went on to lie about what had happened to his son for 15 months, saying he accidentally dropped his child, the court was told.

His lies led to suspicion temporarily falling on Ms Gardener, who was wholly innocent, the court heard.

Asda worker Wickens, admitted manslaughter and was jailed for six years and five months by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

Post-mortem examinations on Rilee’s body showed a combination of internal bleeding inside the head and eyes, which is associated with non-accidental shaking injuries.

Mr Laws added: “Wickens said he felt like his life was over and he was a father all the time, while his mates were off doing different things and experiencing stuff.”

Mr Paul Dunkels, QC, defending, said a lack of sleep and fatigue caused by combining the duties of parenthood with a full-time job could have contributed towards Wickens losing his temper while he was caring for Rilee.

Mr Simon Laws, QC, prosecuting, said Wickens was left in sole charge of Riley on the afternoon of November 25, 2012, and caused serious and unsurvivable head injuries by shaking the child and throwing him in his cot.

When Gemma returned home he pretended the baby was safe and asleep and it was only when she became concerned about how long Riley had been silent that she found him lifeless and cold.

She fetched her father Christopher Gardener, who ran a shop opposite the flat in Winner Street, Paignton, who is a trained first aider and who rushed over and tried to resuscitate Riley without success.

Wickens told paramedics he thought the child may have choked on vomit but once at hospital doctors found bruising on the head which had been concealed by a hat he had put on the baby.

Post mortem examinations showed a combination of internal bleeding inside the head and eyes which is associated with non accidental shaking injuries.

Wickens finally gave an account of the killing in which he said:”Riley would not stop crying. I lost my self control and shook him and flung him face down into his cot.”

Mr Laws said Wickens later told a psychologist how he felt the birth of his son had robbed him of his freedom.

He said:”Wickens said he felt like his life was over and he was a father all the time while his mates were off doing different things and experiencing stuff. He felt his career had gone and Gemma would not let him join the army.”

The mother Gemma Gardener and her family sobbed in the public gallery as Mr Laws told how she had made a victim impact statement about the loss of Riley .

He said:”She spoke movingly about the fact she has to live with the moment she discovered him and more than anything how she feels the loss of her son.”

Mr Paul Dunkels, QC, defending, said Wickens was immature for his age but had done his best to be a good and supportive father who had got up five times a night to change or feed the child.

He said his loss of temper may have been caused in part by the lack of sleep and fatigue caused by combining the duties of parenthood with a full time job.