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'Good mum had wrong bloke'

PUBLISHED: 17:27 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:22 03 July 2010

A 20-year-old woman who lived in the Great Yarmouth hostel where baby Ruby Spink was murdered, has described how the baby's mother called her “an import” because she was of mixed race.

A 20-year-old woman who lived in the Great Yarmouth hostel where baby Ruby Spink was murdered, has described how the baby's mother called her “an import” because she was of mixed race.

On Wednesday, a 17-year-old youth described as “inadequate and irresponsible” was found guilty of murdering Ruby, by a jury at Norwich Crown Court. She was killed by a blow to the head.

Ruby's 18-year-old mum Laura Spink had already admitted neglect.

Spink and her boyfriend, who cannot be named, will be sentenced on August 28.

A fellow resident of the Salisbury Road hostel where 11-month-old Ruby died said Spink had been a “good mother” but “totally changed” when her boyfriend was around.

The woman, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “To begin with she was quite quiet. Then her boyfriend came round and she totally changed.”

She went on to describe how Spink would call her baby girl “an import” and when other residents questioned her over the name-calling Spink would laugh.

She said: “Laura would often leave Ruby in the hallway on her own while she was in her room. Other girls at the hostel told staff about it. Laura and her boyfriend used to row all the time. It wasn't a happy relationship.

“Ruby was a happy baby but she changed when the boyfriend was around. She would cry a lot.”

The woman left the hostel in August last year, a month before Ruby was murdered.

She added: “Laura was a good mum,” she said, “she just fell in with the wrong bloke.”

During the trial, the court heard how Ruby's “floppy and lifeless” body was rushed to the James Paget University Hospital on September 16 last year.

Spink had left Ruby alone in her room with her boyfriend, who was not the child's father. When she returned a few minutes later, she found the little girl lifeless.

Her boyfriend initially claimed Ruby had choked on some cake he had given her, but later changed his story, saying she had hit her head by accident on a wall as he twirled her around to cheer her up.

The court heard from an expert witness who said Ruby's head injuries were similar to those commonly caused by a 30mph road crash or a fall from a first-floor window. A post mortem revealed Ruby had suffered broken ribs and fractures to both legs in separate incidents before her death.

Before the jury retired to consider their verdict Judge Jacobs said: “It's clear to all of us that her short life was not a particularly happy one. The care she received was wholly inadequate and her short life ended in a particularly dreadful way.”

Referring to Spink and her boyfriend, he said: “Both were plainly inadequate individuals and totally irresponsible individuals”.

Ruby's father, Martin Shabangu, said: “I feel angry because he still hasn't told me how he killed Ruby. I don't believe it was an accident as he suggested.”

Ruby's grandmother Jaqueline Spink said the family felt justice “had been done” and that they could now start to move on.

“He has taken Ruby's whole life. We didn't even see her start school because of him.”

Senior investigating officer, Det Insp Andy Guy, said the boyfriend had showed “no remorse” during interview and “misled” police.

“He is a violent and immature young man whose brutal actions left a defenceless child in significant pain and ultimately lead to her death.”

Lisa Christensen, director of children's services, said Ruby was a “vulnerable baby born to a young mother” and that her death had underlined how “finely balanced” their work and decisions can be.

Ruby was first referred to children's services in July last year and was later put on the “at risk” register, just six days before she was murdered.

An independent review into Ruby's death was commissioned by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) but its findings will not be released until Spink and her boyfriend are sentenced.

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