Tiny baby was beaten to death by father the day after social workers decided to take a step back
Social workers agreed to decrease their involvement with the family of Florence Higham prior to her death
7 MAR 2017
A baby girl was beaten to death by her father one day after social services had agreed to scale down their involvement with her family, an inquest heard.
In January this year Matthew Higham was jailed for life for the murder of his 16-day-old daughter, Florence Liberty Mae Higham, at their home in Stockport.
He initially denied his involvement with the brutal attack on July 29 2015, which happened while the child’s mother Sharon Collins was visiting a sick relative, but changed his plea to guilty on the first day of the trial.
An inquest into Florence’s death at Stockport Coroner’s Court heard that on July 28, there was a meeting between Higham, Florence’s mum Sharon and social workers at which it was agreed that social services could take a step back due to a ‘decreased level of concern’.
But some 24 hours later, Florence had suffered a sickening physical assault at her father’s hands.
Her injuries included multiple skull and rib fractures, facial injuries and bruising, resulting in acute brain damage plus other internal injuries and organ damage including a lacerated liver.
Giving evidence at the inquest, Ms Collins said at the time she was happy with the decision to scale down the social services contact. She said she had no concerns about Higham harming either Florence or their older daughter, and that when she told him was pregnant again he was ‘happy and excited’.
“He was brilliant with our first born and during my pregnancy with Florence,” she said. “I didn’t notice any change after Florence was born.
“I never had any concerns about the way he interacted with the children. He was very good with them.”
However, she did say that Higham had told her he ‘preferred’ their first child to Florence, which had shocked and upset her, and she had told her social worker, Craig Lupton.
The court also heard that the previous June (2014) Ms Collins had been granted a restraining order against Higham.
The couple started to reconcile around the following September, but Ms Collins said she did not initially inform social services that she was back in contact with Higham, despite being told that if he did come back they would have to do another assessment.
Higham, who suffers from mental health problems including ADHD and bipolar disorder, was admitted to hospital for three days around four months prior to Florence’s death and was on medication.
Ms Collins said she had seen him ‘punching walls’ when he got angry, but that was ‘once in a blue moon’, and that Higham would take himself out of the house for walks to calm down when he got stressed.