November 2020

Father jailed for killing two-month-old Ava Ray

A father who killed his baby daughter in what was described as “a momentary loss of control” has been jailed for seven years.

Joseph Ray admitted violently shaking two-month-old Ava at their flat in Prestonpans, East Lothian, in 2012.

The 33-year-old was convicted after a seven-year investigation saw police consult medical experts to determine the exact cause of Ava’s death.

He was charged with murder but admitted the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

Following the child’s death, investigators ruled out the possibility that Ava had died from natural causes and concluded she had suffered a head injury as the result of an assault.

Ava’s mother Lauren Scott told the BBC: “I think it’s shocking that he only got seven years after all that time.”

Ray’s defence lawyer Shelagh McCall QC told the High Court in Glasgow that Ray had been woken by Ava crying.

He later told social workers of “feeling overwhelmed and angry” and he shook Ava twice, Ms McCall said.

She continued: “He still struggles to understand that what he did could have such a catastrophic consequence.

“He can’t ever make amends for the damage done in a momentary loss of control by an exhausted and inexperienced parent.”

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

Prosecutor Ashley Edwards QC said Ray and Ms Scott – his partner at the time – had arguments mainly over who would do night time feeds.

On the day of the child’s death, Ms Scott had gone to work at 18:30, the court was told.

About 22:50, Ray told a neighbour his daughter was “cold to the touch” and paramedics found her “white in colour, limp and unresponsive”.

She was taken to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children where she died the next morning.

Tests revealed her brain had been starved of oxygen and her death was initially treated as “unascertained”.

After “various experts” were consulted between 2014 and 2018, it was concluded Ava had died due to a “head injury”, Ms Edwards said.

The judge Lady Stacey said the case had been “a terrible tragedy” involving the death of a “much loved child.”

She told Ray: “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.

“Ava’s life was snuffed out just as it was starting by one of the people she was entitled to rely on.

“You have to live with that knowledge for the rest of your days.”

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

The judge said she would have sentenced Ray to eight and a half years had he not pleaded guilty.

October 2020

Man admits shaking his tiny two-month-old baby daughter to death after arguing with his girlfriend over who would feed her at night

A father has admitted killing his two-month-old baby daughter by violently shaking her.

Joseph Ray has been charged after a near seven year probe into the death of baby Ava Ray at their flat in Prestonpans, East Lothian, on November 1, 2012.

The 32-year-old faced a murder accusation at the High Court in Glasgow but prosecutors accepted his guilty plea to the reduced charge of culpable homicide.

Ray was remanded pending sentencing next month

Baby Ava had been born on September 3, 2012 and was the first child for Ray and his partner Lauren Scott. 

Prosecutor Ashley Edwards QC said the couple had ‘arguments’ after the birth mainly over who would do night time feeds.

The hearing was told today that Ray initially claimed to police he had put Ava to sleep that night in her Moses basket.

Ray added he later went to give her a feed, lifted the baby up and found her to be ‘unresponsive’.

 No further details of the attack were revealed and Ray had no previous convictions at the time of the killing.

On the day of the killing, Ava was left in the care of Ray after Lauren had gone to work at a local bar at 6.30pm.

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

Around 10.50pm, Ray was then racing to a neighbour after claiming he had found his daughter to be ‘cold to the touch’.

Miss Edwards: ‘He was described as upset and crying.’

A 999 was made and Ray was told to carry out CPR before mercy crews arrived. 

She continued: ‘A paramedic observed immediately that the baby was in cardiac arrest, white in colour, limp and unresponsive.’

Ava was rushed to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children where tests revealed her brain had been ‘starved’ of oxygen. 

Despite efforts, the baby 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’.

Miss Edwards then told how, between 2014 and 2018, that ‘various experts’ were consulted about what happened.

She added: ‘Following protracted discussions…the medical consensus is now that the pattern of injury…was caused by trauma.’

It was concluded Ava had died due to a ‘head injury’.

Ray had been held by police in October 2013 but was later freed and not charged with any offence.

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

Ray has since been guilty of two ‘domestic assaults’ on Lauren and it is not known if the couple are still together.

He had been accused of assaulting Ava on an earlier occasion and repeatedly attacking Lauren.

However, prosecutors accepted his not guilty pleas to those two charges and he had been out on bail, but was remanded by judge Lady Stacey.