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Baby 'bus death' couple facing years in jail

A couple are facing years in jail after they tried to cover up their baby's torture and death at home by staging the discovery of her body on a bus.

Drug addicts Jeffrey Wiltshire, 52, and Rosalin Baker, 25, concocted a "devious" plan to get away with the horrific abuse of 16-week-old Imani before her death in September last year.

During their Old Bailey trial, Baker blamed her abusive and controlling boyfriend and claimed he had tried to "frame" her by forcing her on to the 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 clearing them of murder but finding them guilty of causing or allowing the death of their daughter, who was on the child protection register.

Adjourning sentencing until May 18, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC 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."

In the week of her death, Imani was attacked three times and suffered 40 rib fractures, a broken wrist and terrible head injuries, jurors were told.

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 making it appear she had suddenly been taken ill on the number 25 bus, jurors were told.

On the morning of September 28 last year, Wiltshire was caught on CCTV kissing Baker, and giving her a thumbs up as she boarded the bus to Stratford, east London, with Imani's body strapped to her chest.

During the journey, Baker raised the alarm and passengers 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."

In the week before Imani's death, Baker had moved from her mother's house in Colchester, Essex, into Wiltshire's bedsit in Newham, east London, where the whole family shared the same bed.

Following Imani's death, Wiltshire initially denied Imani was his while Baker told police she was in a "total state of shock".

Giving evidence, Baker blamed her boyfriend, who she described as a violent man who would get high on heroin and cocaine "every day".

Baker 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, controlling the purse strings or insisting she send him affectionate messages.

The former rapper, who sometimes went by the name Pepper Head, said he had been out the night before Imani's death and came back in the early hours to find Baker in a grumpy mood and the baby off her milk.

In the morning, he told jurors he returned from using a cashpoint to find Baker already packing her bags to go back to Colchester with the baby.

Imani, who was already in the sling, made no noise and her face was covered by a cloth, he said.

He told jurors that he would always kiss Baker goodbye and gave her a thumbs up that day as if to tell her to stay safe.

When Baker phoned him later that morning from the back of the ambulance, she told him that "Imani is not very well", the defendant said.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Holmes, of Scotland Yard, said: "The loss of any child is tragic but to know that baby Imani was tortured and was probably in considerable pain in her last few hours is heart-rending.

"Imani was a premature baby and from the very moment she was born the odds were stacked against her.

"Despite a challenging start to life she fought to survive but sadly her fight was short lived as she suffered at the hands of the very people who were supposed to love, nurture and protect her.

"Baker and Wiltshire orchestrated the most devious of plans in an attempt to cover up the abuse that had been inflicted upon their daughter.

"Their ruse quickly unravelled when medical professionals were able to determine that Imani had probably died up to 24 hours previously and with this overwhelming and compelling evidence charges against the two were swiftly brought.

"The events of that day will have a lasting and devastating impact on the many passengers on board the bus.

"Many of those who stepped in to provide medical assistance were left completely distressed when they realised their efforts to save Imani were futile, not knowing that the entire incident had been staged.

"Baker misled these good Samaritans and gave no thought to anyone but herself as she callously remained on her mobile phone throughout.

"The level of violence and cruelty inflicted on such a young child is something that I have never come across during the course of my career and I hope never to witness anything like this again."

The maximum sentence for causing or allowing the death of a child is 14 years.

CPS reviewing lawyer Devi Kharran said: "These verdicts bring to an end a tragic case.

"Despite a large number of very serious and painful injuries which would have been very obvious, neither of her parents sought medical help.

"Instead her lifeless body was carried onto a crowded London bus to disguise the true circumstances of her death.

"Witnesses have told the court of the shock and distress on that bus once Imani's lifeless body was discovered.

"We would like to thank those who tried to help on the day including members of the public and the emergency services, some of whom later gave evidence in support of this prosecution."

An NSPCC spokesman said it was a "deeply disturbing case", adding: "We hope the Serious Case Review will provide much-needed answers about the circumstances surrounding the death of baby Imani."

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