Father speaks about tragic baby

THE father of tragic baby Ruby Spink said he could have been more involved in her life, after seeing her killer sentenced to life.Martin Shabangu was speaking after a judge told Norwich Crown Court that the 11-month-old from Great Yarmouth had been subjected to a “terrifying ordeal”.

THE father of tragic baby Ruby Spink said he could have been more involved in her life, after seeing her killer sentenced to life.

Martin Shabangu was speaking after a judge told Norwich Crown Court that the 11-month-old from Great Yarmouth had been subjected to a “terrifying ordeal”.

The little girl died after a fatal blow to the head when she was left alone with her mother's boyfriend.

The judge ruled that Mitchell Cooper, the 17-year-old convicted of Ruby's murder, could be identified for the first time to highlight the terrible consequences of child cruelty. He was told he must spend a minimum of 12 years in a young offender institution while his partner and Ruby's mother, Laura Spink, was sentenced to a year, after admitting child cruelty by neglect.


You may also want to watch:


At the same time an independent review into the death last September found that social services and other agencies charged with Ruby's protection had largely acted properly. But several recommendations were made which should further tighten safeguards.

Mr Shabangu said he had last seen Ruby three weeks before her death. She had a black eye but he accepted claims it was an accident.

Most Read

He said: “I could have done better myself. I could have been more involved in her life. I regret it like any parent would.

“I asked social services if I could care for Ruby but they said she should stay with Laura. They could have taken action as soon as they saw things happening.

“I can forgive Laura and Mitchell because everybody deserves forgiveness. But I would like to see action taken more quickly in future.”

Social workers were monitoring Ruby's welfare at the time of her death and she had been placed on the county's “at risk” register just six days earlier.

Ruby, who was living with Spink at a hostel for single mothers in Yarmouth at the time of her death, had been examined by a GP and two specialists in the weeks leading up to her death. All of them noted injuries including broken ribs and legs, but decided she had been hurt accidentally.

Sentencing them, Judge Peter Jacobs said: “You're both immature, you're both irresponsible. You're both the victims of a cycle of depravation, but there's nothing in your background which justifies the way you treated this child. It has to be recognised that when children are neglected in this way, with such frightening results, a custodial sentence must follow.”

Addressing Cooper he added: “You just lost it. You resented the child. Your dislike of the child came to the surface. Then you covered it up. There was something almost cynical about the way you tried to cover it up.”

Cooper had told paramedics that Ruby had choked on a piece of cake and maintained this pretence at his trial despite evidence she had died after hitting her head on a piece of furniture.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter