Norwich baby murderer accused was 'controlling' and 'terrifying'

PUBLISHED: 07:58 05 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:35 02 July 2010

Ben Kendall

The man accused of murdering his six-week-old baby was a 'controlling and terrifying' husband, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

The man accused of murdering his six-week-old baby was a “controlling and terrifying” husband, Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday.

Susan Potter, mother of Melanin Riches, who died in 1985 at her home in Norwich, broke down in tears under cross-examination as she recalled the death of her first child. She had already told the court how she had warned her ex-husband, David Riches, that the way in which he handled the baby was dangerous.

Defence counsel Paul Lewis suggested she was lying and asked why she had not told anybody about her concerns.

Mrs Potter said: “I was frightened, I was terrified of him. He was the controller of me and I always had to do what I was told.

“I was not a strong person when I had my daughter. Sometimes he would rip the phone off the wall to stop me phoning anybody. My mother was caring for my grandfather who had cancer so I could not turn to her.”

Riches, 51, who now lives in Pezens, France, denies murder and an alternative count of manslaughter. He also denies six assaults against women and six counts of child cruelty. He has admitted one count of causing actual bodily harm.

Melanin's death was originally treated as cot death. But Riches allegedly confessed to killing her after being reunited with his son and Melanin's brother, Micah, in 2007.

It is claimed she suffocated after Riches put her head down the side of a sofa. He claims the death was a “tragic accident”.

Mrs Potter described how her ex-husband would force feed Melanin milk when she was not hungry. Although he often doted over her and described her as his “angel”, he would dictate how she should be treated. He would often put her head under a sofa cushion to “calm her down”, Mrs Potter said, but she warned him he would “suffocate her one day”.

She added that Riches was bossy and would make her exercise, telling her she needed to lose weight.

The case continues.

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