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'I still blame myself for daughter's death' - Norwich court

PUBLISHED: 10:54 31 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:17 02 July 2010

David Bale

A father accused of killing his baby daughter 25 years after it was suspected she had died of cot death said he was washing the car when she died - but he still blamed himself for her death.

A father accused of killing his baby daughter 25 years after it was suspected she had died of cot death said he was washing the car when she died - but he still blamed himself for her death.

Norwich Crown Court earlier heard that an emotional reunion between David Riches, right, and his estranged son Micah triggered the events which led to the current trial.

Following the 2007 reunion, former Norwich man Riches is alleged to have confessed to killing Micah's six-week-old sister Melanin, who died in 1985.

Riches is also said to have embarked on "a reign of cruelty" and is alleged to have gone on to abuse a succession of women and children.

Riches, 46, now of Pezens, France, has denied manslaughter. He also denies six assaults and five counts of child cruelty.

Last Friday he was cleared of murdering Melanin following directions by the trial judge Peter Jacobs.

Giving evidence yesterday, Riches said he did not suffocate his daughter but blamed himself for her death.

He said: "She was a crying baby. On this day, she was left on a chair to cry herself out. I put her down on the sofa to have a little whinge.

"She was still having a little whinge when we went out to wash the car. She got too hot and died. I should've known better than to leave her to cry and get too hot. I've always blamed myself for that and still do."

The court also heard evidence via video link from Canada from Riches' sister, Deirdre Wing.

She said she had moved with her future husband from Norfolk to Canada in 1982, but paid regular visits to her brother and her mother in England until about 1988.

She said on these trips back to the UK she met Micah on one occasion, a few weeks after his birth, and never met Melanin.

But she said she had asked her brother's then wife, Susan about how Melanin died.

"Susan told me that she and my brother had left Melanin on the couch whilst they went outside," she said. "They were going to wash the car. When they went back they found her on the couch, lifeless."

Mrs Wing said her brother and his wife seemed to get on "quite well" together and were like any "married couple".

"I never witnessed any arguments between them," she said. "I never saw my brother be violent to Susan and she never said he was violent to her. I never saw my brother be violent to anyone."

The court previously heard how Riches was arrested at Stansted Airport when he was expecting to meet his son but instead was greeted by the police.

The trial continues.

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