Dad jailed for shaking two-month-old baby daughter to death

Joseph Ray violently shook little Ava twice after she woke him up with her crying.

Dad jailed for shaking two-month-old baby daughter to death Getty Images
Glasgow: Joseph Ray was jailed for seven years.

A dad who killed his two-month-old baby daughter has been jailed for seven years.

Joseph Ray violently shook Ava Ray twice after she woke him up with her crying at their flat in Prestonpans, East Lothian, on November 1, 2012.

The 32-year-old was charged after a near seven-year probe into the death.

The binman originally faced a murder accusation at the High Court in Glasgow, however prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to the reduced charge of culpable homicide.

Jailing him on Wednesday, judge Lady Stacey said: “As you know Ava was entitled to look to you for love, affection and support. You failed in that and your failure had terrible consequences.

“I accept this was caused by momentary loss of control. She was a tiny baby and you should have treated her with care and attention.

“Ava’s life was snuffed out just as she should have been able to look to you for support, She was a much loved child and what you did took that child’s life.”

In defence, QC Shelagh McCall said: “Mr Ray’s explanation for what happened is he had a long working day, his partner Lauren Scott was out and he was left with the care of the baby.

“He fed her and put her down as usual and he was awoken by her crying. After very little sleep and feeling overwhelmed and angry he shook her twice.

“He still struggles to understand that what he did had such a catastrophic outcome.”

Ms McCall said the case had taken so long to come to court because of “contrasting medical views” and added that at one point it was thought Ava may have had a problem with blood clotting which could have explained her injuries.

Baby Ava was born on September 3, 2012 – the couple’s first child.

Midwives had been “happy” at how they were coping with the newborn.

However, prosecutor Ashley Edwards QC said the couple had “arguments” after the birth, mainly over who would do night-time feeds.

On the day of the killing, Ava was left in Ray’s care as Ms Scott had gone to work at a local bar at 6.30pm.

An hour later, Ray unsuccessfully tried to get his aunt to come over to “watch” Ava while he went for a shower.

Around 10.50pm, Ray went to a neighbour’s house, claiming he had found his daughter to be “cold to the touch”.

Ms Edwards said: “He was described as upset and crying.”

A 999 call was made and paramedics found Ava “white in colour, limp and unresponsive”.

She was rushed to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children, where tests revealed her brain had been “starved” of oxygen. Despite efforts, Ava tragically died early the next morning. 

The court heard it was concluded at that time there were “no apparent suspicious circumstances”. Ava’s death was initially treated as “unascertained”.

Various experts were consulted between 2014 and 2018, and it was eventually concluded that she died due to a “head injury”.

Ray – who now lives elsewhere in Prestonpans – was held by police in October 2013, but not charged

It was in March 2019 that he first appeared in court in connection with his daughter’s death.

Ray, who had no previous convictions at the time of the killing, has since been found guilty of two domestic assaults on Ms Scott.