This man is serving life for shaking a baby so hard her eyes bled. Now new evidence suggests he—along with 96 other jailed 'child killers'—is innocent. Is this the most frightening miscarriage of justice in British legal history?
Daily Mail Jan 15
RAY ROCK never saw who smashed his head open with a sock weighted with billiard balls. A warder at Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire found him lying in his cell in a pool of blood. He spent weeks in hospital and couldn't speak for three days or walk for three weeks. But who cares?
Rock, 32. is the worst scum imaginable. He's serving life - he's now been moved to Dartmoor Prison — for murdering his girlfriend's baby.
Angered by 13-month-old Heidi's pitiful cries while he babysat at his Great Yarmouth home. Rock shook her so hard that she was killed by the violent whiplash effect.
He came out with a story that he'd dropped her and she'd stopped breathing. Rock wept, crocodile tears and his girlfriend, Lisa Davis, was completely conned by the cold-hearted killer.
Rock would have got away with it, too, had not Heidi's autopsy discovered a swollen brain and bleeding in the back of the eyes and over the brain's surface — the three tell-tale symptoms of what has been dubbed Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).
He must have done it, no question. The police told Lisa about the evidence of guilt and Rock was charged and convicted in 1999 of murdering the baby he protested he had loved.
Detective Inspector Julian Gregory, who led the murder inquiry, said: 'Rock has never shown remorse. Obviously, nothing will bring Heidi back, but I am pleased that justice has been seen to be done in this tragic case.'
There is only one problem with the conviction of Ray Rock. An eminent scientist has explained it in language that even the Attorney General or the Home Secretary might understand: 'Shaken Baby Syndrome is — because of the lack of evidence to support it — c**p.'
Last month, the Government finally began to catch up when the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, raised the possibility that the convictions of a staggering 97 alleged 'child killers' — imprisoned on the basis of SBS — may be unsafe.
If Lord Goldsmith's fears prove right, then we are looking at the biggest and most tragic miscarriages of justice scandal in British legal history — bigger even than that of the 'cot death' mothers wrongly convicted of murdering their babies.
In 2003, the courts freed two mothers - Sally Clark and Angela Cannings — who had been jailed partly because of the evidence of the now discredited expert Professor Sir Roy Meadow and his 'Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy' theory.
This embodied the notion that mothers deliberately harm their children to gain attention. Meadow also had a 'law': unless proven otherwise, 'one cot death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder'.
Another 20 people convicted, in part, on the basis of Meadow's flawed law and theory could yet go free, pending their appeals.
Now, Shaken Baby Syndrome is in the dock for presenting a similar scientific 'certainty' that many experts believe is neither scientific, nor certain, but which means that more than 100 people may have endured the unimaginable hell of convictions for child killing on the basis of a mumbo-jumbo theory.
And there are potentially thousands more cases around the world — including that of British nanny Louise Woodward, convicted by an American court on the SBS theory.
The science behind SBS is clear: if a dead baby exhibits the three telltale signs outlined above, then it must have been violently shaken.
According to Detective Chief Inspector Phil Wheeler, the author of the definitive 2002 Home Office report on the subject, these injuries cannot be accidental but must have been inflicted.
However, the theory of Shaken Baby Syndrome was based, not on laboratory science, but on the confession of a mentally ill American woman who said that she had violently shaken babies under her care.
Her case was written up some 40 years ago by Dr John Caffey, who later admitted that the evidence was 'meagre', 'circumstantial' and 'manifestly incomplete'.
Despite this, doctors, police and social services embraced the diagnosis and from such flimsy begin it 'grew like a snowball'.
Pour years ago, Dr Jennian Geddes, a neuro-pathologist at the Royal London Hospital, now retired, became troubled by the number of Shaken Baby cases — such as that of Rock — where there was no history of previous abuse: no broken bones, no bruises and no scars.
Dr Geddes knew that when a baby is in a fatal car crash, it is violently shaken by the whiplash effect and suffers traumatic damage to nerves inside the brain.
So she did something no one had done before: she compared the brains of 53 babies and children whose deaths had been attributed to violent shaking with those of youngsters who'd died in car crashes.
Her findings were astonishing: 50 out of the 53 brains showed no 'whiplash damage' or indeed any evidence at all of a serious head injury.
And one of the cases she examined where there was no evidence of injury of any kind was that of Baby Heidi — allegedly viciously shaken to death by Ray Rock.
Dr Geddes concluded there had to be another cause of the so called 'tell-tale signs' of SBS. She and other experts now believe that there are a number of natural or accidental causes of SBS symptoms, including seemingly trivial accidents such as falling off a bed from three feet.
But how could a baby falling such a short distance suffer such terrible injuries? After all, some babies are known to have fallen 20 feet out of an open window and survived. The answer is not the height of the fall but exactly how the baby lands.
If the baby lands on its arms or legs, it can survive with a few broken bones. But if it falls only a few feet and lands on the base of its spine, an enormous jolt can travel up the spine and 'shuck' the brain stem.
The shock can switch off the breathing mechanism But the heart will keep on pumping blood to the brain. It's like pumping water into a blocked radiator and the brain springs leaks in the weakest parts of the system: the eyes and the surface of the brain.
Dr Geddes's findings blew apart the assumption that the previously recognised symptoms of SBS must necessarily equal foul play. In short, she destroyed the SBS theory, but only now are the legal and medical establishments catching up.
Raymond Rock is a big man, over 6ft tall, but in the course of my investigations into his case, people have told me over and over that he is unusually gentle.
He had two children with a previous partner and there was no history or violence or bad temper. At the birth of one of his children, Rock was complimented by one of the midwives on his sweet nature. She asked him if he'd ever thought of becoming a midwife.
On June 2, 1998, he was looking after Heidi, while his girlfriend Lisa Davis was at work. He said that he heard the child crying, picked her up and rested her on his shoulder, holding her with one hand while, with the other, he fiddled with the baby mobile to distract her.
Somehow, she wriggled out of his grasp and fell to the floor, landing on her bottom. It was immediately apparent that she'd been seriously injured. She was white and limp. So Rock rang 999. Tapes were played in court of him begging the operator to hurry the ambulance.
Today, Heidi's mother, Lisa Davis, is torn between her initial disbelief that Rock was capable of murdering her baby, fuelled by the latest doubts over the conviction, and the stack of evidence she heard during Rock's trial.
Rock's family, including two children by a former partner, must live with the knowledge that that the world sees him as a 'baby killer', a view which led Rock's fellow inmates to assault him so viciously. The damage caused by this one case is incalculable.
But of course there are others —96 of them — including that of Lorraine Harris, who lost two baby sons. The first, Patrick, died in her arms in hospital where she'd taken him after he fell ill at home.
Lorraine, from Derby, was accused of shaking him to death, and was convicted of manslaughter in 2000 and sentenced to four years.
Before she was convicted, she fell pregnant again, and while in prison suffered the infinitely more terrible life sentence of having her new son taken from her
The Family Court — a highly secretive legal system that specialises in child abuse cases — accepted that, as Lorraine had violently shaken Patrick to death, her new baby was also at risk and should be the subject of a forced adoption. She remains haunted by the loss of her second son for a crime she says never happened.
When we investigated Lorraine's case for BBC1's Real Story With Fiona Bruce, we found a very similar case to that of Ray Rock.
Patrick — like Heidi — displayed the supposed symptoms of BBS but had no broken bones or any other evidence of physical abuse.
We discovered additional evidence suggesting that Lorraine may have been a victim of a terrible miscarriage of justice.
Patrick's paternal grandmother had lost two baby boys, both stillborn. Some cases of stillbirth are linked to a genetic pre-disposition to bleeding and this raised the possibility that the same genetic predisposition also affected Patrick. This would have made it more likely that a trivial fall would result in the tell-tale bleeding symptoms of SBS.
What is clear from Dr Geddes's work and our own investigations is that no one should be locked up on the basis of SBS, because it is, scientifically, a fiction.
The big question for the British legal system is: how long can it keep people in prison for 'child killings' on such a dubious basis?
The Appeal Court won't hear the first four shaken baby cases --including those of Ray Rock and Lorraine Harris — until June.
But with the Attorney General's announcement in December, at least we now have the first official recognition that the legal system may have got SBS horribly wrong.
This followed a Government review into all 297 convict inns for the killings of children under the age of two in the last ten years. The review was prompted by the successful appeal of triple cot death mother Angela Cannings — falsely convicted on the testimony of Professor Meadow — and the judgment that no one should ever go to prison on the basis of 'expert' evidence alone.
The core of the Cannings judgment was expressed by Lord Justice Judge when he said: 'The question is not "Who murdered these babies" but "Was there a crime?"'
But how did we even reach this dreadful state of affairs? One explanation is to be found in that 2002 report on Shaken Baby Syndrome by DCI Phil Wheeler, of the Metropolitan Police.
DCI Wheeler sets out the facts, as he sees them: if, at autopsy, a baby has the three symptoms of SBS, then it must have been violently shaken to death by a parent or carer
An internet guide on SBS for fellow detectives put together by DCI Wheeler states as a certainty that 'the violent whiplash caused by shaking is inflicted, not accidental'.
DCI Wheeler acknowledges Dr Geddes's research only to rubbish it But Wheeler is not a scientist, only a policeman. And not one without blemish.
Five years ago, Victoria Climbie, aged eight, endured 128 injuries as social services, doctors and police were too busy doing other things to investigate her agony.
And the name of the police officer held by the subsequent Lord Laming inquiry to assume 'a great deal of responsibility for the flawed investigations carried out by those under his command'? DCI Phil Wheeler. Nevertheless, Wheeler's report still stands as the official Government wisdom on SBS.
Of course, it would be unfair to blame the catastrophe on one policeman, yet nearly 100 people may have gone to jail on the basis of pseudo-science. Their families have been devastated, their lives wrecked.
Prisoners beat Ray Rock unconscious. One day he may be freed, but Lorraine Harris can never escape her life sentence: the forced adoption means she's lost her second boy for ever.
She told me: -Winning the appeal will help, but it won't get my son back. It's a bit late now.'
It's a bit late for them all. • John Sweeney's new TV series continues this week: John Sweeney Investigates: Roman Abramovich, Thursday, Jan 20, BBC2, 9.50pm