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Norwich mum gives evidence in baby murder trial

PUBLISHED: 11:00 04 March 2010 | UPDATED: 08:34 02 July 2010

David Riches

David Riches

Victoria Nicholls

A mother of a baby who died 25 years ago told a court how she feared her daughter would suffocate when she used to see her husband stuff the baby's head in the cushions of a settee to "wear her out".

A mother of a baby who died 25 years ago told a court how she feared her daughter would suffocate when she used to see her husband stuff the baby's head in the cushions of a settee to “wear her out”.

Susan Potter, mother of Melanin Riches, who died at six weeks old in 1985, told jurors at Norwich Crown Court how her husband David Riches employed his own tactics in dealing with the baby when she cried.

At the time the incident was recorded as a cot death, but this week David Riches went on trial accused of murder after being reunited with his estranged son Micah, who later went to the police.

Mr Riches, 46, who now lives in Pezens in France, denies one count of murder and an alternative count of manslaughter. He also denies six assaults and six counts of child cruelty.

Mrs Potter told the court how her husband used to insist on Melanin drinking every last drop of the bottle of formula every night before bedtime, even if she became distressed and did not appear to want the full amount.

Mrs Potter said: “He used to push her head down the side of the cushion of the settee or chair where she was sitting and said, 'I'll wear her out then she'll drink it'.

“Her little face would be down and her little arms and legs would be kicking.”

Describing the state Melanin used to be in when he lifted her out, she said: “She would be red and flustered and I couldn't tell if it was because she was sweating or if there were tears on her face making it moist.”

When Sally Howes, prosecuting, asked Mrs Potter what she thought might happen, she replied: “He would kill her. She would suffocate.”

She told the court that on one occasion when she tried to intervene, her husband “backhanded” her across the head. Mrs Potter also said that when her husband used to remove the baby from the cushions she would be gasping for breath, but that he would put the bottle straight in her mouth.

Mrs Potter recalled how Melanin had been “bright and jolly” on the day of her death. She said her husband was having his evening cuddle with Melanin on the sofa at their home in Norwich while she was in the kitchen, and that on her way to the front door she saw him sitting in the living room while Melanin was lying on the settee.

She told jurors: “He then said, 'Oh my god, she's stopped breathing, and he picked her up. He did shake her but he didn't shake her violently.”

An ambulance was called but despite efforts to save her, by the time Mrs Potter arrived at the hospital Melanin had died.

The court earlier heard Mr Riches' son Micah, 21, being accused by Paul Lewis during cross-examination of lying.

Mr Lewis said mobile phone records revealed that he had not sent any texts to his father on the day he claimed his father responded to a message he had sent with a phone call in which he confessed to killing Melanin.

Micah Riches had also previously told the court that he was driven to seek anti-depressants for the first time following his father's alleged confession, but Mr Lewis told jurors that medical records showed he had been prescribed anti-depressants by doctors before the reunion and the alleged phone call with his father.

The trial continues.

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