The suspect has been identified as Zak Bennett-Eko, the Daily Mail reported, and is the 11-month-old victim’s father. He was arrested in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, on Sept. 11, while he was inside a pub.
Shortly before 4:25 p.m. Wednesday, police were called to reports that a child was in the River Irwell. Emergency services “immediately attended and the baby boy was retrieved from the water and taken to hospital,” police said. The boy died a short time later.
Detective Inspector Wes Knights, who is heading the investigation, said: “This is an incredibly tragic incident which has taken the life of a baby boy, who we believe is only around 11 months old. His family have understandably been left devastated by what has happened and we have specially trained officers providing them with support at this difficult time.”
Knights added that the investigation is ongoing in an effort to determine whether anyone else may have played a role in the baby’s tragic death.
“We know that there were a significant number of witnesses to what happened and I want to urge those people to come forward and provide us with as much detail as they can. It’s also possible that other people may have information about the circumstances leading up to the incident, as we know the baby had been in the area for a number of hours beforehand,” Knights added.
Emma Blood, the mother of the deceased child, has spoken out about her heartbreak, with the Manchester Evening News citing her as saying, “I lost my baby today.”
The 22-year-old mother, who described her son as “my world, my heart, my soul” on her social media profile, posted an emotional statement on Facebook. The Manchester Evening News cited her as writing: “I am alive, although I wish I was dead instead. LEAVE ME ALONE. Let me grieve for my child, my whole world and so much more.”
The Sun reported that Blood also posted on Facebook that Bennett had taken their baby “to the shop for milk” prior to the child’s death.
Bennett reportedly walked into the Lock Keeper pub moments after the 11-month-old fell into the water and ordered a drink.
A barmaid at the pub where Bennett was arrested was cited by the Daily Mail as saying that shortly after he walked in, there was a commotion.
“Then loads of people came in screaming that there’s a baby in the river,” she said.
“He sat there and stared, he didn’t move so the police were phoned and he just told a customer that he’d thrown his baby in the river.
“Everyone was up barring him, he sat there and stared and didn’t move.
“The police were phoned to say, ‘We think we have who you’re looking for,'” she said, according to the report.
Another witness told the Manchester Evening News: “It was a very small child in the river, I thought it was a doll when I saw it.
“I thought someone was on the run.”
Detective Inspector Wes Knights said an autopsy has been scheduled for Sept. 13.
“We appreciate that the incident has caused a lot of concern locally, which is understandable, but I would ask that people please refrain from speculating on social media about the circumstances and who may or may not have been involved, as this is still a live criminal investigation,” Knights said.
“I would also like to say thank you to all those people who tried their best to help retrieve the baby from the river and to all those who have since provided support to the investigation by providing information.”
A JustGiving page has been set up to help cover funeral costs.