Violent dad jailed for smothering daughter

A “violent” handyman, who smothered his baby daughter 25 year ago, has been jailed today.

David Riches, 52, who once ran a guesthouse in Felixstowe, was given a 14-year prison term by a judge at Norwich Crown Court after being convicted of the manslaughter of six-week-old 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, from Norwich, contacted police after receiving the text and the investigation revealed a “catalogue of abuse’’ towards women and children, prosecutors said.


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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 from Pezens in Francewas “violent and controlling’’ but doctors could find no evidence of psychiatric illness.

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“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.”

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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