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Father jailed over baby's death

A teenage father who was said to have "lost his temper" with his three-month-old baby has been jailed for causing his son's death.

Stephen Coukham, from Cornwall, initially denied murdering his son Tyrone, but later admitted he was responsible for the death, on July 21 2010.

Coukham, then 18, was living with his partner - the baby's mother, Kerry Marriott - at a flat in Truro when he took Tyrone into the bedroom to change him. Minutes later, he raised the alarm when the baby stopped breathing. Tyrone died later that day in hospital.

Medics said the baby suffered a "devastating, unsurvivable head injury, which had the features of or suggestive of non-accidental head injury".

Mrs Justice Sharp jailed Coukham, now 21, for three years and eight months at Truro Crown Court after his plea of manslaughter was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

She said: "The precise sequence of events that led to Tyrone's death will never be known. But you lost your temper because he was crying or wouldn't stop crying. Then in a fit of temper you shook him hard, or threw him down on a soft surface - actions that were likely to cause him harm."

Prosecuting, Martin Meeke QC described how two of Coukham's next door neighbours were visiting the defendant, his partner and their son when Coukham took Tyrone into the bedroom to change him.

Mr Meeke said one of the friends, Jack Smith, could hear Tyrone crying as Coukham took the baby into the bedroom. Mr Meeke said: "Jack Smith said he could hear Coukham comforting him (the baby). Then Tyrone suddenly stopped crying and within two minutes Coukham came out, asking for Kerry and saying the baby had stopped breathing. Kerry called the ambulance at 3.25pm; within five minutes the ambulance was at the flat. (The medic) found Tyrone on the bed, but with no pulse."

The court heard Coukham later gave differing accounts of what happened, claiming that he had picked his child up only for him to slip from his hands - at first saying this was into his basket, and then later saying it was on to the bed. He also gave conflicting accounts of when the baby had been sick, and even said he had thrown Tyrone into the air and caught him in an attempt to revive his son. Police later said the size of Coukham's two-room flat would have meant this was impossible to do, and refuted Coukham's explanation.

Medics said shaking was the most likely cause of death, but also said there were other internal injuries which may have been caused before the day Tyrone died. A health worker who visited the family said she witnessed Coukham "rough handling" the baby, pulling him up by his arms as a two-week-old. But GPs and health professionals said they had no cause for concern over the baby's treatment.


From Belfast Telegraph