Manor Park couple found not guilty of murdering three-month-old daughter
PUBLISHED: 14:39 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 17:50 20 April 2017
A couple whose premature baby was found lifeless on a bus in Stratford have been cleared of her murder.
Jeffrey Wiltshire, 52, and Rosalin Baker, 25, of Morris Avenue, Manor Park, were found guilty of causing or allowing the death of their daughter Imani, who was three months old when she died in September.
Baker blamed her abusive and controlling boyfriend and claimed he had tried to “frame” her by forcing her on to the 25 bus with their dead child in a sling.
But former rapper Wiltshire, who claimed to have fathered 25 children, insisted: “I’m not a life taker, I’m a baby maker.”
The jury deliberated for 14-and-a-half hours before reaching a verdict on the lesser charge – unanimous for Baker and a majority verdict of 10 to 1 on Wiltshire.
The charge carries a maximum term of 14 years imprisonment.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard adjourned sentencing until Thursday, May 18.
He said: “Imani’s life must have been painful, distressing and bewildering, and the failure at the very least to protect her is a serious matter indeed that must result in a custodial sentence.”
During the trial, the Old Bailey heard that in the week of her death, Imani was attacked three times and suffered 40 rib fractures, a broken wrist and terrible head injuries.
Her wounds were caused by twisting or pulling her arm, squeezing her chest and throwing her against a hard surface, jurors heard
Imani’s parents were convicted thanks to the decision to close a legal loophole which allowed parents to get away with a child’s murder or manslaughter by blaming each other.
The offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult was introduced as part of the 2004 Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act and carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail.
Sometimes referred to as familial homicide, it was intended to plug a gap by which adults in a house where a child has been clearly abused or neglected could avoid conviction by blaming each other, or just staying quiet about what happened.
The most high profile case was that of Baby P, or Peter, who suffered 50 injuries despite receiving 60 visits from social workers, doctors and police over the final eight months of his life.
His mother, Tracey Connelly, her boyfriend Steven Barker and his brother Jason Owen were jailed at the Old Bailey in 2009 for causing or allowing his death.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said Imani was in “very significant pain and distress”, which would have been obvious to any parent.
Wiltshire and Baker, who lived on benefits, attempted to hide what happened at home by concocting a plan to make it appear she had suddenly been taken ill on the bus, jurors were told.
On the morning of September 28, CCTV footage captured Wiltshire kissing Baker and giving her a thumbs up as she boarded the bus with Imani’s body strapped to her chest.
During the journey, Baker raised the alarm and passengers, a number of whom gave evidence in court, desperately tried to save Imani by giving her CPR and calling an ambulance.
Mr Atkinson told jurors: “Those members of the public, presented with the nightmare of an infant who was not breathing, did all they could to help. They were panicking and distressed. In contrast, Baker was noted to be cold and calm.”
Wiltshire, who said in a police interview that he had fathered 23 children, initially denied Imani was his while Baker told officers she was in a “total state of shock”.
Baker had blamed her boyfriend, who she said used to beat her and would get high on heroin and cocaine “every day”.
She claimed that after she found Imani dead at the bottom of their be,. Wiltshire had said: “It’s all your fault, I told you to give her up for adoption.”
Giving evidence, she said: “The first thing I thought was he’s done something to her. When I looked at her she looked really bad. I thought she was dead.”
But Wiltshire denied hurting his “tiny and beautiful” daughter either intentionally or unintentionally, or witnessing anyone else injure her.
He also denied being abusive towards Baker and controlling the family’s finances.
Wiltshire said he had been out the night before Imani’s death and returned in the early hours to find Baker in a grumpy mood and the baby off her milk.
He told jurors that he went out that morning to use a cashpoint and returned to find Baker packing her bags to return to her mum’s home in Colchester.
Imani, who was already in the sling, made no noise and her face was covered by a cloth, he said.
The court was told that he would always kiss Baker goodbye and that the thumbs up was to tell her to stay safe.