Mother weeps as alleged baby killer’s trial begins

Joby Anthony Rowe is on trial in the Supreme Court for child homicide, following the death of his 12-week-old daughter. Picture: NONI HYETT
Joby Anthony Rowe is on trial in the Supreme Court for child homicide, following the death of his 12-week-old daughter. Picture: NONI HYETT

The mother of a baby girl allegedly shaken to death has wept while giving evidence during the first day of the trial of the man accused of causing her daughter’s death.

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

Doctor’s switched off three-month-old Alanah Rowe’s life support just over 24 hours after she was rushed to the Royal Children’s Hospital from her Heathcote home on August 29, 2015.

Alanah’s mother, Stephanie Knibbs, told the Supreme Court jury her daughter liked “to be close to people” and had “just started smiling” in the weeks leading up to her death.

But she also said the three-month-old had been “a bit unsettled” and “of an evening she’d just cry and cry and cry” during the fortnight immediately prior to the day she died.

The court heard Ms Knibbs and Mr Rowe were living together in a unit in Heathcote with Alanah and Ms Knibbs’ other five-year-old daughter at the time of the infant’s death, having been in a relationship since about the time the younger child was conceived in mid-to-late-2014.

Ms Knibbs said Mr Rowe had been “good” with Alanah in that time, taking an active role in looking after her, including feeding and dressing her.

But Crown prosecutor Fran Dalziel said it was the prosecution’s case that the totality of Alanah’s injuries, which included retinal, brain and spinal haemorrhages and swelling of the brain, were “indicative of inflicted head trauma”.

Ms Dalziel said while there could be non-traumatic reasons for the individual injuries, when taken together, they “must have arisen by reason of acceleration/deceleration trauma being inflicted on Alanah by another person”.

“Medical evidence establishes that the only reasonable explanation for those injuries is that they occurred from her being shaken and shaken beyond normal handling,” she said.

Mr Rowe’s barrister, Paul Higham, told jurors they would hear evidence that his client had been a loving father and said he denied having ever hit, dropped or shaken his baby daughter.

“Mr Rowe denies shaking Alanah during the time she was in his sole care on the 29th of August or at any time at all,” he said.

“He does not accept that that is the only reasonable explanation.

“He is saying ‘I didn’t do what the prosecution are saying I must have done to cause those injuries’”.

The trial is expected to continue before Justice Lex Lasry in Bendigo for the next three weeks, with Ms Knibbs due to conclude her evidence on Friday.