Sussex parents sentenced over baby daughter’s death

A Sussex father who murdered his baby daughter told lie after lie in a bid to blame her mother has been jailed for life with a minimum of 19 years.

Sunday, 21st March 2021, 7:11 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 11:41 am

Michael Roe, 33, shook his premature baby girl Holly to death and tried to cover it up over three murder trials.

Young mum Tiffany Tate, 22, turned a blind eye to his abuse and allowed him to kill their baby, a court heard.

She was jailed for two years and nine months.

Michael Roe and Tiffany Tate have been jailed. Picture: Sussex Police
Michael Roe and Tiffany Tate have been jailed. Picture: Sussex Police

The premature baby had barely reached her due date before a pattern of abuse by her father ended in her violent death.

Neither Roe or Tate, of Crowborough, showed any emotion as they were sent down on Friday (March 19).

Mr Justice Edward Murray told Roe he had murdered his daughter by shaking, catastrophic impact, or both.

He described Roe’s behaviour as shameful by trying to point the finger of suspicion at Tate.

Tate and Roe outside court

He told him: “You knew you had seriously harmed her before you finally killed her.

“When you carried her upstairs she was already either dead or in a coma to die shortly afterwards.

“You hoped she would recover as she had before.”

The judge told Roe his clumsy and obvious lies had started before his daughter died and carried on through three trials.

“Changing and adding to your account with a view to casting suspicion on Tiffany Tate,” he said.

Holly was clearly suffering until she died, the judge added.

“You had the highest possible position of trust.

“I’m satisfied you intended to cause really serious harm and you knew you had seriously harmed your daughter,” he told Roe.

The judge accepted there was no evidence Tate had witnessed any of the abuse.

Tate was described as having mild learning difficulties.

“You never observed him shaking but knew he was potentially dangerous to Holly,” the judge told Tate.

“You knew he had harmed Holly before she died.

“You deliberately disregarded her welfare because of your fear of being thrown out of his house.

“You did not take steps to protect her from physical harm.

“Had you not allowed it, baby Holly would not have been murdered.”

The couple appeared together in the dock at Hove to be sentenced after a second harrowing retrial.

Tate and Roe never once looked at each other.

Roe stared straight ahead through out the hearing – while Tate fidgeted through the hearing at Lewes Crown Court in Hove.

Tate, 22, wore a black facemask, black lace top and blue jeggings at the sentencing.

Roe wore a white facemask and blue suit.

Both parents had troubled childhoods and grew up in care, the court heard. And Tate was still being taken care of.

Tragic Holly was born on July 14, 2018, two months early by emergency caesarian section and had to be resuscitated.

She was discharged from hospital on August 9.

Within a few weeks she was dead from injuries caused by violent, abusive shaking, the court heard.

The cout was told she suffered fatal head injuries and 11 rib fractures in her short life.

Roe, 33, shook her on at least three different occasions before her death at the family home in September 2018.

Tate turned a blind eye, the court heard.

She told Roe she felt like she could have thrown the baby against the wall.

Sally Howes QC said: “There can be no greater abuse of trust for a child than by their father or their mother.

“Tiffany Tate knew what she needed to do and she didn’t do it.”

Danny Robinson QC for Tate said her conduct had to be seen in the context of her imbalanced relationship with Roe.

“She was doing the she could with the circumstances that presented themselves,” he said.

Tate was originally charged with murder and causing or allowing baby Holly’s death, but she was cleared of murder before the first trial collapsed due to covid.

The second retrial ended when the jury decided Roe killed their baby and Tate let him do it.

Roe tried to claim he was in his shed when his daughter was killed.

The court heard Roe smoked at least two cannabis joints every night.

Tate said Roe woke her at 1.30am saying: “Holly’s cold, she’s not breathing.”

Former foster child Tate was only 19 when she moved in with Roe.

They lived together at Alderbrook Road in Crowborough, when baby Holly was born two months premature.

Tate admitted she had trouble bonding with her daughter while she was still in the premature baby unit which continued after Holly was allowed home.

When the baby cried, she became frustrated and panicked, the court heard.

Roe took over night feeds as Tate had no patience with Holly, the court was told.

Emergency services were called to the house in the early hours of Monday, September 10, 2018 after the couple reported she was having breathing difficulties.

Holly was found to be cold and not breathing.

Roe told police something startled him.

“He felt Holly’s head and it was cold,” Ms Howes said.

“He then felt her chest and it was warm.

“He carried out a test for reflex, there was none.

“He woke Tiffany Tate and gave two rescue breaths to Holly but she did not respond.

“Michael Roe rang the emergency services for an ambulance.”

Paramedics battled to save her before she was taken to Pembury Hospital in Tunbridge Wells where she was pronounced dead.

Port-mortem examinations showed numerous signs of injury on her tiny body.

Eight-week-old Holly had suffered head injuries on three different occasions before her death and 12 rib fractures.

Roe had no patience with his daughter and lost his temper at feeding times, Ms Howes told the jury.

“Michael Roe knew exactly what he was doing,” she added.

After the sentencing, Tate’s grandfather, Victor Smith, described Roe as controlling.

He said: “I just hope she can cope with it.

“She tried to get help, but he was ruling and always was.

“It was a controlling relationship.

“We were told we were trespassing and get out when we went to the house.

“We only ever saw them in the street.

“I have lost a great grand daughter that I saw only once at the hospital and she was fine then.

“The only thing I’ve got left now is photographs.”