Father jailed for 14 years for killing baby daughter
- Credit: Family picture supplied by Norfolk Constabulary.
A man convicted of killing his baby daughter has been jailed for 14 years by a judge who insisted he must have known the harm he was causing his baby.
Christopher Easey, 31, who was also found guilty of neglect, was jailed for a total of 14 years by the honourable Mr Justice Murray, who said despite his lack of experience as a father and maturity he was "not a stupid man".
He said: "You must've known what you were doing was harming Eleanor.
"It must've been obvious to you there was a risk of really serious physical harm to her."
Easey had been on trial at Norwich Crown Court charged with the murder of the three-month-old.
Carly Easey, 36 - who is now divorced from Christopher - had been on trial accused of allowing the death of her daughter as well as cruelty.
Eleanor died from a catastrophic brain injury two days after being admitted to hospital on December 18, 2019 after paramedics were called to the family home at Morton on the Hill.
Both defendants had denied all offences, but on Friday (April 29) Christopher Easey, of Ely Road, Little Thetford, Ely, appeared for sentence after having been found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter last month after more than 20 hours of deliberations.
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Mr Easey looked straight ahead and showed no emotion when he was sentenced, although his mother was visibly upset in the public gallery.
Mr Justice Murray said Eleanor died in December 2019 just 14 weeks after she was born.
He said she had suffered "extensive bleeding and neurological damage to her brain" as well as 31 rib fractures and five other sites of fracture to her limbs.
He said those injuries "couldn't be explained by normal handling or even rough handling".
Also sentenced was Carly Easey, of Elizabeth Drive, Cherdburgh, who was found not guilty of allowing the death of her daughter but guilty of neglect.
The judge accepted she had not been aware her husband was harming the baby and she was given a 12-month community order.
Mr Justice Murray told how both defendants had given Eleanor diluted squash and insisted it was "undeniable something was seriously wrong" with the way she was fed.
Verdicts in the case followed a 10-week trial during which the jury heard that baby Eleanor had sustained 31 rib fractures, including 17 at the front and 14 at the back, which were found to have occurred at four different times.
Medical experts described to the jury how the injuries Eleanor suffered were "strongly indicative of inflicted injury" while another expert found "a single traumatic event cannot explain these injuries".
The trial had heard Christopher Easey was "responsible for those earlier injuries" and was "ultimately responsible for the death of Eleanor".
The prosecution said Eleanor died from "a deliberate non-accidental injury involving some form of shaking and probably an impact to the right side of her head".
Christopher Easey's account of the injuries having occurred after he gave Eleanor a "resuscitative shake" was said to be a "pack of utter lies".
The jury was also told during the trial that Carly Easey had been aware of the risk to her baby and "failed to protect Eleanor" by leaving her with Christopher and continuing to do so.
On Friday, Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, had said there was a "history of violence or abuse towards the victim in this case" who was "particularly vulnerable to her age".
She said the offence was aggravated by the "number of detailed and convoluted accounts" the defendant made up afterwards "to cover up everything".
Although there was "precious little any doctor could've done" to save Eleanor, given her injuries, she questioned whether Christopher Easey knew that at the time.
In terms of the cruelty charge Easey was convicted of, Miss Howes said there were "prolonged and multiple incidents of cruelty, including neglect".
She said the post-mortem examination found Eleanor was a "poorly-nourished child" who had been in a "severe state of malnutrition".
Miss Howes said they were leaving the night-time feeds "up to Eleanor" based on whether or not she woke, rather than waking her for feeds.
She told the court this meant Eleanor was therefore "missing out on valuable nutrition".
Miss Howes said there were also occasions when Eleanor was left alone and the defendant "was aware of it".
She said it had been "very early days" when Eleanor was not only premature but "very small and very vulnerable".
In terms of Carly Easey, who was convicted of cruelty, Miss Howes said there was "wilful neglect" by the defendant.
She said it was not just the physical development that was affected but "the brain development which was affected in such a young baby".
Miss Howes said Carly Easey herself had admitted in evidence that she left Eleanor alone for an hour and a half, while she was at least 100 metres away.
Sally O'Neill, mitigating for Christopher Easey, who has no previous convictions, said he was a "very inexperienced" father who had "little understanding" of the stages of development of a baby or what to expect.
She said his lack of insight and maturity was a very important part of this case as "he didn't know any better".
Miss O'Neill said if he had caused those earlier injuries to Eleanor he may have done so without knowing he had and as a result of "inappropriate, rough handling".
The barrister said his work as an agricultural stockman, where he was dealing with cattle, was an important factor in how he held Eleanor in a "demonstrably inappropriate way".
Miss O'Neill, who was supported in defending Christopher Easey by Danielle O'Donovan, said Eleanor was in the defendant's "sole care" at the time and "accepted it was his actions that caused those injuries to that baby and ultimately her death".
She said he would have to "carry that to his grave".
Miss O'Neill said he was "clearly out of his depth" but "could not bring himself to admit that he was not coping" and was part of his "inadequate personality".
She said his "greatest regret" was for not being stronger and asking for help but instead pretending he was coping.
Elizabeth Marsh QC, mitigating for Carly Easey, said the appropriate sentence for her client was a community order.
She said Carly Easey's baby was killed through no fault or inaction of hers and "feels extreme guilt for failing to protect her baby from the man who deceived her".
She said Eleanor was "significantly underweight" and accepted Carly "should've realised" but insisted other health professionals - nor grandmothers - had not said so at the time.
Miss Marsh, who was supported in defending Carly Easey by Lori Tucker, said there was no injury to the child as far as her client was concerned, but failing to supervise or abandonment as the crown described it as, and malnourishment.
She also said that Carly Easey has no previous convictions, was of good character, co-operated with the investigation fully and has shown remorse.
Miss Marsh said she has expressed regret about not doing the right things but cared for Eleanor as best she could and in the end was "caring for that baby well".
The barrister told the court Carly Easey had left her baby on December 18, 2019 having gone to work but then had to "see her baby suffer and die over the next two days".
Miss Marsh said Carly Easey, who volunteers for a charity, has also been offered full-time work if she were not to be sent to prison.
'The awful truth'
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Lewis Craske, senior investigating officer, said: “Christopher Easey has been found guilty of killing of his baby daughter and it is the awful truth that she died at the hands of the very man who should have taken care of her; someone who should have cared for her and shown unconditional love.
"Sadly, that wasn’t the case and little Eleanor was neglected for much if not all her very short life.
“Finding out what happened in that family during Eleanor’s life and on that terrible evening in December 2019 has always been our priority.
"I know we did that and presented our findings.
"This was a very emotive investigation, and the memories of it will remain with us for quite some time.”