Cornwall

St Blazey baby 'unlawfully killed' by his father

Cooper Johnson-Hicks and Tristan Hicks Image copyright Family/ Facebook
Image caption Cooper Johnson-Hicks suffered fatal injuries while in the care of his father, Tristan Hicks

A one-month old baby was unlawfully killed by his father, a coroner has concluded.

Cooper Johnson-Hicks from St Blazey, Cornwall died from serious head injuries on 26 June 2016 at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

His father Tristan Hicks was arrested on suspicion of murder and took his own life days after being released on bail.

The coroner at an inquest in Truro said Mr Hicks was "grossly negligent," with the death "amounting to homicide".

More on baby Cooper inquest and other Cornwall stories

Mr Hicks told police the head injuries occurred when he tripped over a Moses basket, causing the baby to fly from his arms onto the floor at about 10:00 BST on the day he died. He later changed his account to say he landed on top of the baby.

An ambulance was not called for Cooper until 13:49 and Mr Hicks did not tell anybody what had happened until about 16:30 when they were at hospital.

The coroner for Cornwall, Dr Emma Carlyon, said Mr Hicks' accounts "did not explain the severity of the injuries".

She accepted a pathologist's report that the injuries, "have to be considered to be non-accidental," and that they had happened while Cooper was in the sole care of Mr Hicks.

The injuries were described as those usually seen in "a high speed road traffic collision or a catastrophic fall from a major height such as a second storey building," in a statement from consultant radiographer Simon Thorogood.

Image caption Cooper Johnson-Hicks lived in a flat at Polgrean Place in St Blazey

The inquest heard how Mr Hicks had a history of mental illness and domestic violence.

Cooper was placed on the child protection register under the category of physical violence, even before he was born in May 2016.

When asked by the coroner if Cooper's death could have been avoided, the police office leading the suspected murder investigation, Det Insp Gail Windsor, said: "Absolutely. I don't think Tristan should have been in that home."

She told the hearing that analysis of Mr Hicks' phone found an internet search for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome the day before Cooper died.

"My opinion is he would have been charged with murder", she added.

A post mortem of Cooper found 24 rib fractures and two complex head fractures, some of which were "days old".

Cooper's mother, Bryony Johnson, was also arrested on suspicion of murder but all charges were dropped in December.

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