Court hears of baby’s final hours

Joby Anthony Rowe (left) arrives at the Supreme Court in Bendigo for his child homicide trial with lawyer, Alex McLennan. Picture: NONI HYETT
Joby Anthony Rowe (left) arrives at the Supreme Court in Bendigo for his child homicide trial with lawyer, Alex McLennan. Picture: NONI HYETT

The mother of a baby allegedly shaken to death has recounted the final moments of her daughter's life during the trial of the man accused of causing her death.

The child’s father, Joby Anthony Rowe, 24, has pleaded not guilty to one count of child homicide in the Supreme Court in Bendigo.

Stephanie Knibbs told the jury her three-month-old daughter, Alanah Rowe, was crying in her car seat when Mr Rowe dropped her off to work at the Union Hotel in Heathcote on August 29, 2015.

Ms Knibbs considered not completing her shift that day as she “didn’t like to leave either [of her children] when they’re upset”, but started work anyway after being reassured by Mr Rowe that Alanah would be OK.

While at work Ms Knibbs said she received text messages from Mr Rowe about Alanah, saying “she’s been good babe, she [sic] asleep” and “yeah she been a little upset but she OK now”.

When she finished work shortly after 2pm, Ms Knibbs said her step-mother, Joy Knibbs, who also worked at the hotel, drove her home.

Mr Rowe was at home with Alanah and Ms Knibbs’ five-year-old daughter.

“I went inside and Alanah was on the change table and she kind of had her arm up towards her chest,” Ms Knibbs said.

“I walked over to her and obviously I realised something wasn’t right with her.”

Ms Knibbs said Alanah’s eyes were closed and “it didn’t look like she was breathing, it looked like she was trying to gasp for air’’.

She said it was when she held the infant up to her cheek that she realised she wasn’t breathing.

“She was very limp, she was very floppy,” she said.

Ms Knibbs could not recall whether she or Mr Rowe spoke first when she returned home or the exact words spoken but told the court he was “very upset” and said he “only gave her a bottle” and she “threw up a little bit of milk”.

Joy Knibbs told the court her step-daughter rang her and asked her to come back as Alanah was not breathing.

Mrs Knibbs also described Mr Rowe as being very upset, saying he was crying and “hysterical”.

She said her step-daughter treated her “like her own mother” and told her “everything” but had never spoken to her of any issues between she and Mr Rowe or between Mr Rowe and Alanah and that she never observed any temper issues.

Mrs Knibbs said she observed Mr Rowe handling Alanah many times and he had always supported her head when he picked her up or carried her.

She said Mr Rowe often looked after Alanah and her older sister on his own and Ms Knibbs never raised any concerns about this with her.

Alanah’s life support was switched off on August 30, just over 24 hours after the events the two women described to the court.

The trial will resume before Justice Lex Lasry in Bendigo next week.