A mother pleaded in court, “Please make sure my baby is safe,” shortly before her partner fatally attacked their four-month-old daughter.
Jordan Lee, 29, is accused of murd*ering his daughter Willow Lee after becoming enraged while caring for her.
Willow was discovered seriously injured at the family’s Blackpool home on December 3.
She was rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital before being transferred to Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where she died three days later on December 6.
The prosecutor, David McLachlan QC, told the jury at Preston Crown Court that they were dealing with a “very sad case.”
The court heard that Willow had been unwell in the days leading up to the alleged attack, but a doctor who examined her thought nothing was seriously wrong.
Willow’s mother, Jade Bell, left her in the care of her partner Lee on the day itself, December 3.
According to Mr McLachlan, everything appeared to be fine at first, but’matters took a turn for the worse’ when the defendant’s brother, Daniel Lee, who also lived at the address, messaged Jade at 1.18pm.
Lee, who denies mu*rder and an alternative charge of manslaughter, told police that Willow had been’really ill’ and had been ‘crying most of the day,’ but that her injuries were caused by her falling off the sofa.
‘He’s clearly unfit to be a father,’ he wrote. ‘I feel terrible for Willow.’
The court heard that ‘alarm bells’ began to ring for Jade, and she responded, ‘What’s happened?’ as well as ‘Is Willow OK?’
According to Daniel Lee, Mr McLachlan stated that everything ‘wasn’t OK,’ and he texted Jade about Willow crying all day and his brother ‘getting really angry and shouting at her.’
Daniel Lee tried to calm things down by offering to look after Willow, prompting his brother to pick her up by the ankle and say, ‘here you go,’ before lowering her again.
Willow’s crying was also said to have concerned their neighbor Samatha Holmes, who heard bangs and shouts such as ‘Shut up or I will…,’ ‘It’s done now, there’s nothing we can do about it,’ and ‘Get her in that chair.’
Mr McLachlan stated that Jade sent additional messages to Daniel Lee, expressing concern that her partner was caring for Willow.
‘Please, please make sure he doesn’t hurt her in any way,’ she begged, and ‘Please make sure my baby is safe, Dan.’
According to the court, Lee texted Jade that “everything was OK now” because Willow was sleeping after she tried to “calm the waters.”
However, around 5 p.m., ‘things seemed to take a turn for the worse again,’ according to Mr McLachlan.
‘Will you shut up?’ yelled Daniel Lee’s brother.
He offered to look after Willow once more in order to ‘calm down’ his brother.
Daniel Lee’s Snapchat recordings showed Willow crying before there was a ‘thud,’ according to Mr McLachlan, and Willow stopped crying.
‘The prosecution claims that this is the pivotal moment that led to her death a few days later,’ he says.
“Willow, Willow, what’s the matter?” Jordan Lee was heard saying.
He then dashed upstairs with Willow in his arms, showing her to his brother, who noticed she was ‘unresponsive and her head was floppy.’
When paramedics arrived at the house, Lee informed them and Jade that Willow had ‘fallen off the sofa.’
However, the court heard how Willow had suffered a severe and traumatic head injury, resulting in a bleed to the brain as well as bruises on the left side of her face.
Her brain injury was consistent with being forcibly shaken, according to a post-mortem, and the degree of force required was significant – equivalent to a high-speed car accident or a fall from a multi-story building.
A pathologist determined that the bruising on her face was caused by ‘gripping, squeezing, or twisting’ of Willow’s ear and would have caused ‘immense pain’.
Her father was arrested and charged with attempted mur*der at first, but he was later charged with mu*rder after Willow died.
Lee, who denies mur*der and an alternative charge of manslaughter, told police that Willow had been’really ill’ and had been ‘crying most of the day,’ but that her injuries were caused by her falling off the sofa.
He claimed she was injured as a result of his ‘lack of care’ while playing on his X-Box, but he denied being violent towards her, saying it was ‘the one thing I couldn’t’ do.
The trial will last approximately two weeks.