A father who murdered his baby daughter by "vigorously shaking" her after smoking cannabis has been jailed for life to serve a minimum of 17 years. The trial of Ross Conlin, 29, of Sandy Lane, Farnborough, Hampshire, heard that he caused four-month-old Kiera Conlin to suffer a heart attack and bleeding to the brain while she was alone in his care on the bank holiday of May 6 last year.
His partner, Kelly-Marie Rayner, was acquitted at Winchester Crown Court of the charge of causing or allowing the death of a child. Detective Chief Inspector Scott Clarke, of Hampshire police, said: "The trial into the death of baby Kiera Conlin has been a harrowing and difficult experience for all those involved.
"We welcome this verdict and hope that Kiera's extended family have now got answers to at least some of the many questions they had around her untimely death. Kiera's death was at the hands of a man whom she most relied and depended upon for love and the most basic care. She was abused and horrendously let down by this man - her father.
"Without the abhorrent behaviour of her father, Kiera would still be alive today. Investigations into this type of case are often extremely complex and difficult for officers, staff and the family of the deceased. I would like thank the entire investigation team and the many medical professionals and specialists for all their hard work and dedication in bringing this case to an appropriate conclusion.
"I would also like to personally thank Kiera's extended family for their understanding and patience during what must have been one of the most challenging times of their lives."
Nigel Lickley QC, prosecuting, told the jury that the defendants were staying with Rayner's parents during the weekend of Kiera's death. Conlin had been left in charge of Kiera, while Rayner went to have her nails painted and her parents were out, when the injuries were suffered at some point after 10am that day.
Mr Lickley said: "Kiera was shaken violently, she may also have suffered further head impact. "Her injuries were so severe, having become unconscious and stopped breathing - she was in her father's hands at the time - she suffered a heart attack. She never recovered and was allowed to die the following day, the doctors unable to save her.
"She hadn't suffered those injuries as a result of choking or vomiting on her bottle as her father said but as a result of violent shaking by the adult holding her, her own father." He added that Conlin had inflicted the "terrible" injuries "probably in anger". Mr Lickley said that post mortem examinations showed that Kiera had suffered a rib fracture between four and eight weeks prior to her death with the same rib and another being fractured again about 14 days prior to her death along with three skull fractures.
She suffered further rib fractures between three and five days prior to her death and showed signs of previously having suffered bleeding to the eyes. Mr Lickley said that there was "stress and strain" in the household and Rayner feared that Conlin might leave her. He explained that a major cause was the lack of a "bond" between Conlin and his daughter and added: "Ross Conlin had had a good relationship with her but that relationship changed and he became unhappy and stressed by the lack of bond between he, father, and Kiera, daughter."
Other causes for the stress were money worries with Conlin taking out short-term loans to shore up their bank account. Conlin, who worked as a debt collector, had also been experiencing trouble at work and had been facing disciplinary procedures after his performance had "dipped".
And Conlin's drug use also added to the strain on the household, Mr Lickley said. He added: "He is a drug user, he smoked cannabis, he smoked cannabis on May 5th, the day before events on May 6th and historically at least had taken cocaine."