Man jailed for smothering his baby daughter

A “violent and controlling” handyman was jailed today for smothering his six-week-old daughter 25 years ago.

David Riches (aged 52) from Pezens in France, was given a 14-year prison term by a judge at Norwich Crown Court in England after being convicted of the manslaughter of Melanin Riches in Norwich on July 3, 1985.

When the baby girl died doctors thought the cause was cot death and police did not investigate, the court heard.

But detectives launched an inquiry three years ago after Riches texted Melanin’s brother Micah, now 22, saying the baby would not stop crying and he had “put her face between the arm and the seat of the sofa”.

Micah Riches, of Norwich, contacted police after receiving the text and the investigation revealed a “catalogue of abuse” towards women and children, prosecutors said.

A jury found Riches, who lived in Norwich when he killed Melanin, guilty of manslaughter plus a number of assaults and cruelty offences.

Judge Peter Jacobs said Riches was “violent and controlling” but doctors could find no evidence of psychiatric illness.

“You cruelly forced (Melanin) to take every last drop of her milk before bedtime in the hope that she would sleep,” said the judge.

“(You pushed) her face down the side of the sofa in between cushions. Your behaviour towards her culminated in her manslaughter.

“You were totally devoid of any methods of dealing with young children but you are so arrogant you thought you knew it all.”

Detectives praised Micah Riches’ courage in raising the alarm. They said he had contacted his father after losing touch and had asked what had happened on the day Melanin died. When Riches explained, Micah Riches called police.

“It took a lot of courage for him to do what he did,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Guy, who led the inquiry.

“It shows that it’s never too late. If people have information about things that have happened in the past we will take it seriously and investigate.”

Riches entered not guilty pleas and insisted he had not meant to harm Melanin but was trying to make her sleep.

He was cleared of murder.

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