Mum’s guilt after former partner shook their six-month-old boy to death

A heartbroken mother has revealed her guilt after her former partner shook their six-month-old baby son to death.

Brave Aisha Harris told a court that she felt like the “worst mum in the world” and blamed herself for not being able to protect her son Ruben.

Ruben was killed by his dad Lee Sweet, 26, who was looking after the youngster for the night and could not cope with his crying.

Devastated Miss Harris, who has battled suicidal thoughts, told how she will "never hear his first words" and she now finds it hard being around babies.

Sweet grabbed Ruben by the ribs and shook him until he became unresponsive at his home in Plymouth, the Herald reports.

The dad called an ambulance but it was too late to save Ruben, who died on May 31 last year, three days after he was injured.

Sweet spent the next 11 months denying he had done anything wrong.

He denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter, which was accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service.

High Court Judge Justice James Dingemans jailed Sweet for five years and four months.

He added: "No sentence I can pass can possibly reflect the loss suffered by Ruben, Miss Harris or her family."

Miss Harris stormed from the court in tears when the sentence was announced.

Earlier, she stood yards from Sweet who sat quietly behind the plate glass of a packed courtroom.

Miss Harris, reading from a statement, said: “From the day this event happened, I have felt the worst mum in the world. I feel that I do not deserve such a title as mother.

“This is because a mother’s number one duty is to keep their child safe from all harm. I know that there was no indication that little man would be at risk of harm as he was in his dad’s care at the time.

“He had shown no signs of aggression before, but I still blame myself for not being there and not being able to comfort little man during such a horrible time.”

She spoke of the days before Ruben’s death at Bristol Children’s Hospital.

Miss Harris said: “I don’t know how to begin to explain the impact it has had on me. I don’t think anyone does. The days before little man’s life support being turned off were hard, being denied holding your child when you want to comfort them, to let them feel your embrace, and being told ‘no’ because you cannot leave a mark on him, because he is ‘evidence’.”

Sweet’s cowardice in failing to admit what he had done meant he was released on bail for almost a year while detailed medical investigations took place.

Miss Sweet, her voice wavering, told the court that Ruben was her “beautiful pride and joy”.

She added: “Ruben was an advanced child, smiling, happy and beloved by all. When people saw Ruben he would light up and smile cheek to cheek.

“I will never again hold him in my arms, I will never again kiss his face and worst of all, I will never hear his first words. I can only imagine the fear that filled my little man.”

Miss Harris, then only 19, and Sweet got together in 2016 and Ruben was born on November 17 that year.

She was living with the child in a city mother and baby unit in Plymouth at the time of the tragedy. Sweet was living in a shared house not far away in Stuart Road, Stoke.

Miss Harris said that she had to remain silent while speculation was rife about what had happened to Ruben.

She added: “A lot of people read The Herald and Facebook. There has been a lot of speculation over Facebook which caused me distress.”

But the young mum said she could not speak out because it would endanger the whole case.

Miss Harris added: “I feel lost and secluded from the rest of society. It feels as if I have had to keep little man’s death a dirty little secret.

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“Since little man’s passing I have found it hard being around babies for too long. I push myself to do it and try and move on. I can do it but the backlash is the hardest part. Hearing it’s somebody’s first birthday breaks me, as I never got to celebrate that with little man.

“The past year I have even convinced myself that Ruben was taken from me by social services even though I was a good mum. This thought is much easier to imagine than to face the true reality of what Lee has done.

"When I was growing up, I always wanted a child. Little man could not have been more perfect, his smile, his laugh, even down to his smelly nappies.”

Miss Harris concluded by speaking of the impact on her mental health.

She added: “I am on a high dosage of medication, which is being reviewed as it is not working. My depression and anxiety is worsening.

“My suicidal thoughts have increased since losing little man as I feel like I have failed and want to be with him again.

“I am undergoing therapy for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggling to come to terms with the loss of little man.”

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