Sussex dad found guilty of murdering eight-week-old baby girl

A dad from Sussex faces life in prison after being found guilty of murdering his premature baby girl Holly.

Crowborough parents Michael Roe and Tiffany Tate outside court
Crowborough parents Michael Roe and Tiffany Tate outside court

Michael Roe, from Crowborough, in East Sussex, shook his baby daughter to death after watching porn and smoking a joint in his shed, the trial at Hove Crown Court heard.

A jury decided mum Tiffany Tate turned a blind eye to his abuse and allowed him to kill their baby.

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She wept as friends and family comforted her outside court.

Michael Roe arriving at court

Premature Holly Roe suffered fatal head injuries and 12 rib fractures in her short life.

Roe, 32, shook baby Holly on more than one occasion, leading to her death from head injuries at the family home in September 2018.

He was found guilty of murder at court today (Wednesday, March 17) and Tate, 22, was convicted of allowing her death at the hands of the father.

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

Tiffany Tate leaving court

The infant was discharged from hospital on August 9, and within a few weeks she was dead from injuries caused by violent, abusive shaking, the court heard.

Tate told police she thought her baby was absolutely fine just hours before her baby died.

Sally Howes QC told the jury she had turned a blind eye.

Roe faced a murder trial at Hove Crown Court after the initial trial in March 2020 was abandoned at the outbreak of the pandemic and, in November, the jury was dismissed following an irregularity.

A retrial was scheduled, which opened on February 3.

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

They lived together at Alderbrook Road in Crowborough, East Sussex, when baby Holly was born.

Ms 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, Ms Howes said.

Roe took over night feeds as Tate had no patience with Holly.

He fed the baby after smoking a cannabis joint on the night she died, the court heard.

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

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, not breathing and with no heart activity at all, Ms Howes said.

Paramedics battled to save Holly 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.

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

She died on September 10, 2018.

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 said.

Roe and Tate will be sentenced on Friday.

Justice Edward Murray said: “Tiffany Tate, you have been found guilty and you will be sentenced on Friday.

“You are on bail but subject to conditions.

“Michael Roe you are remanded in custody until 10am on Friday.”

Following the trial, Detective Superintendent Emma Heater from the Surrey and Sussex Major Crime Team said: “Holly Roe was only eight weeks old when she died having been found unconscious at her home address by her parents. An examination discovered that Holly had a fatal head injury as well as numerous rib fractures.

“The people who should have been caring for Holly have today been found guilty of offences relating to her death.

“Michael Roe, her father, has been found guilty of murder and her mother, Tiffany Tate, has been found guilty of causing or allowing the death of Holly.

“These cases are always very difficult for everyone: the extended family and people who knew Holly during her very short life, the medical teams that responded to this incident and my colleagues who conducted the investigation.

“I would like to thank all of those witnesses who gave evidence and also the jury who have listened to harrowing detail and taken time to consider the evidence carefully before reaching their verdict.”

After the trial, Libby Clark from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “This is an absolutely tragic case involving a tiny, premature baby who had barely any time out of hospital before her death.

“When she was brought home by her parents, she was then subjected to appalling injuries on more than one occasion, the effects of which would have been noticed immediately by anyone caring for Holly.

“Instead, both her mother and father claimed that there was nothing wrong with her prior to her death.

“Evidence from the medical experts in this case showed that Holly’s injuries were consistent with the previous incidents and demonstrated a pattern of behavior by Michael Roe.

“He was alone with his daughter at feeding time, had little patience and a tendency to lose his temper.

“Despite being aware of what had happened previously to her daughter and knowing that Michael Roe was responsible, Tiffany Tate failed to alert the authorities.

“Instead she chose to expose her daughter to the continued risk that Roe posed.”

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “This is a heart-breaking case in which a new-born baby lost her life while in the care of those who had a duty to protect her.

“Babies and young children are completely dependent on those who care for them and we all have a duty to look out for their welfare. Reporting any concerns early could potentially save a child’s life.

“Anyone concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, while young people can call Childline on 0800 1111. If a child is in immediate danger, always call 999.”