Father in court accused of killing baby daughter two decades ago

Ben KendallA father who had not seen his son for 20 years confessed to killing his baby daughter following an emotional reunion, a court heard yesterday.Prosecutors said that Norwich-man David Riches' 'reign of cruelty' began with the murder of six-week-old Melanin in 1985.Ben Kendall

A father has gone on trial in Norwich accused of murdering his baby daughter, 25 years after it was suspected that she had died of cot death.

Norwich Crown Court heard that an emotional reunion between David Riches and his estranged son Micah had triggered the events that led to the present trial.

After that 2007 reunion with Micah, a brother to six-week-old Melanin, who died in 1985, Riches confessed to killing her, the court was told.

Prosecutors alleged that, after the murder, city man David Riches embarked on a "reign of cruelty" and was claimed to have gone on to abuse a succession of women and children.

Sally Howes, prosecuting, said: "There were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Melanin which were reported to the coroner's officer at that time.

"In the absence of any suspicious circumstances, the consultant pathologist concluded it was consistent with sudden infant death syndrome, otherwise known as cot death.

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"That was how the sad story of little Melanin remained until the summer of 2007.

"In 2007, Micah Riches made contact with his father, David Riches both by phone and text message, then later they met up on occasions.

"During these various conversations they discussed the death of Melanin and how David Riches had behaved towards Melanin but also Micah. As a result of this, Micah eventually went to the police.

"As a result of this investigation, police discovered a catalogue of abuse towards women and children. By that time his reign of cruelty had lasted almost two decades, beginning with the murder of baby Melanin."

David Riches, 46, also known as Richey Martinique, now living in France, denies one count of murder and an alternative charge of manslaughter.

He also denies six assaults and six counts of child cruelty.

He has pleaded guilty to one count of causing actual bodily harm.

Micah Riches, 21, from Costessey, broke down in tears as he gave evidence.

He described how he had travelled to a Felixstowe guest house run by his father in 2007 to meet him for the first time. They had discussed Melanin's death and David Riches had said: "We will talk about it some other time."

Later, the pair exchanged text messages. Micah Riches said: "I sent him a message asking how Melanin died. The jury was told that he replied saying: 'We've all done things we are not proud of,' so I asked him what he meant by that.

"He said that it was him; I was completely shell-shocked. I sent a message asking how he did it and he said he suffocated her."

It is claimed that, in other conversations, David Riches had described how he would put Melanin's head down the side of the sofa to calm her down when she cried. He later insisted her death had been a tragic accident.

The jury heard how Micah Riches and brother Chanay Riches had been placed on the social services "at-risk" register in 1988 after Chanay almost died in what at the time was suspected to be a potential cot death incident.

Their mother left David Riches shortly afterwards and they lived in a women's refuge until she set up a new home. He then went on to marry three more times and have a long-term relationship with another woman.

Micah Riches said his father admitted he had been for responsible for fracturing his skull when he was a child.

When Micah Riches contacted police, their investigations led to a string of others thought to have suffered at his hands.

The trial, which is expected to last at least eight weeks, continues.