An “emotionally manipulative” father killed his 12-week-old daughter in “a momentary loss of self-control” after shaking her, a court has heard.
Isabella Vallance died of a traumatic head injury suggestive of being severely shaken at the family home in Stanley Close, Redditch, England in December 2012.
Her father Tyler Vallance had already admitted manslaughter and inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent, while mother Jessica Wiggins was found guilty of allowing the death to happen, after a later re-trial.
Wiggins knew her now ex-partner could be violent towards her and was in the home during the assault, but was out of the room when the incident happened, according to prosecutors.
Worcester Crown Court today heard it was Vallance, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and mild Tourette’s, who left his daughter mortally injured as he “gripped” and shook the baby in a brief and deadly assault, according to Crown QC Christopher Hotton.
In a previous assault, the month before the fatal attack, Isabella was left with eight broken ribs and a bleed on the brain “consistent with gripping of the chest and shaking” delivered with force “equivalent to a car accident”.
The tell-tale internal wounds of that earlier assault were only discovered after a post mortem was carried out following the child’s death.
On one occasion, a health visitor visiting the couple at home had noticed a bruise on the youngster’s left cheek, but there had been 10 other interactions with health and social workers who had “no concerns”, said Mr Hotton.
Judge Robert Juckes QC said it was agreed Wiggins was “an extremely good mother” skilled in caring for her daughter.
The pair, who are being sentenced over two days at Worcester Crown Court, appeared in the dock separated by security officers and did not look at each other as the Crown set out its case against Vallance.
Isabella, who had fully recovered from being delivered prematurely at 34 weeks, died of a head injury in hospital five days after the parents called paramedics to their flat at 12.40pm.
The first medic on the scene described how Isabella “looked dead and completely lifeless”, said Mr Hotton.
He also said the reason behind an earlier 999 call, just one second long and deliberately made, from Wiggins’ mobile phone an hour and a half before the second emergency phone call, had never been explained by either parent.
After being rushed to the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, baby Isabella was transferred for specialist care to Birmingham Children’s Hospital where life support was withdrawn, with Wiggins and Vallance’s agreement, five days after the attack on December 12, 2012.
A post mortem revealed several broken ribs sustained at her father’s hands over the two separate attacks.
Of the fatal incident, the head injuries included a substantial bleed, brain swelling and double retinal haemorrhages which Mr Hotton said were “in combination, highly suggestive of traumatic head injury as a result of shaking and impact”.
Vallance, 21, admitted the killing before trial while 20-year-old Wiggins, of Heathfield Road, Redditch, Worcestershire, had denied allowing the death of a child.
She was convicted of that charge after a re-trial, after a previous jury had been unable to find, and acquitted her on a separate count of child cruelty.
The court head the couple had been having relationship problems, with police offciers describing Vallance as “a callous individual” who “could not control his emotions or his temper”.
It also emerged that when arrested, Vallance had attempted to pin the blame for his daughter’s earlier broken ribs on family members who had been babysitting for the couple while they enjoyed a night out.
Mr Hotton said Vallance “had little or no part” in the care of his baby girl, adding “it is clear Jessica Wiggins did not trust Tyler Vallance with the care of Isabella”.
He spoke of a text Wiggins sent a friend in which she described an incident at the family home where Vallance had “grabbed her around the neck” and nearly accidentally struck his daughter.
“She said that Isabella had been lucky, as he’d whacked something off the fireplace, and it had come close to hitting Isabella,” he added.
Mr Hotton said the young couple’s relationship was stormy, and Vallance – who once grabbed his girlfriend by the throat and hair on a night out – was “emotionally manipulative”, making threats to take his own life if his girlfriend ever left him.
While the couple were later reconciled, neighbours heard “arguments on the morning of December 7”, the day of the fatal attack, added the Crown’s QC.
Of the assault, Mr Hotton said: “The bones of a baby are malleable and difficult to fracture, implying the use of significant force.
“It seems likely Tyler Vallance gripped and shook with a significant force and likely her collapse followed immediately.”
As well as head injuries, Isabella suffered a broken rib and two broken legs in the fatal assault, while a paramedics said she saw two pea-sized bruises on the tiny baby’s inner arms.
Abigail Nixon, in mitigation for Vallance, said her client “accepts full responsibility for his crimes”.
“It was a momentary loss of self-control, with tragic consequences,” she added, saying he had not only lost his daughter but would “bear the burden” of his crime for the rest of his life.
Rachel Brand QC said Wiggins had been “in thrall” to the “emotionally manipulative” Vallance, being just 18 years old at the time of the fatal attack.
“To be convicted of this offence is a grave punishment for her indeed,” she added.
Judge Juckes adjourned the case saying he would move to sentencing tomorrow.