'Murdered' baby found in canal could have been alive for several hours

Police believe a baby boy found dead in a Black Country canal could have been alive for several hours – as they now treat his death as a murder investigation.

Police have launched several appeals but are yet to find the parents of the baby boy
Police have launched several appeals but are yet to find the parents of the baby boy

The newborn baby was found in the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Rough Wood Country Park, off Hunts Lane, in Willenhall, on May 20.

Crimestoppers is now offering a £5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for offences linked to the baby boy's death.

Police say the baby could have lived for several hours after birth – but was most likely deceased when he was put into the water. The body was then in the canal for several days before it was discovered by a passer-by.

On the basis that an unlawful act cannot be ruled out, the West Midlands Police homicide team is treating the death as murder.

Tributes remain near the canal where the baby boy was found
Tributes remain near the canal where the baby boy was found

Detective Inspector Wes Martin said: "The pathology report, which has obviously been critical in this case, says that the child may have lived for several hours post-birth.

"We believe that the child was dead before being placed into the water. Which I think is significant. And we believe that the body could have been in the water for several days, up to four to five days. We are working on those times at the moment.

"We are relatively open-minded on the cause of death – to say the child has potentially lived for several hours post-birth, there's no trauma or injury seems to have been caused, other than those of the body having been in the canal for several days. But obviously with it being such a vulnerable baby, there could be a number of ways it died unfortunately."

Crimestoppers is offering a £5,000 reward for information regarding the death of the baby

Appealing to the baby's parents, Det Insp Martin said: "I would still make a direct appeal to the parents to come forward. We are just trying to get to the truth of what has happened to this child. We will deal with either parent that comes forward really sensitively and with compassion.

"We still want to support them, but as I said earlier, we ultimately want to get to the truth of how this baby came to be in the water, and to do that we are treating it as a murder at this stage. Obviously we will keep an open mind if they come forward with an alternative event then we will listen to them.

"The other point I want to make to the parents is we have retained the body of the baby with the coroner, we have done so with dignity. And we have an opportunity, if they want to come forward and say farewell, and give that baby a proper burial properly, then we can facilitate that in due course."

Det Insp Martin said numerous leads had been followed up since previous appeals and a number of people identified as potential parents had been ruled out, but his team are still keen to receive more information from the public.

"We got lots of phone calls in relation to this investigation, we probably spoke to 40 to 50 people, who are local residents, users of the canal," he explained.

A map of where the baby boy was found

"People came forward and gave us information which helped us understand the movements on the canal at the time in question.

"Other people gave us names of potential parents, mother of the child. We traced down those people and we are happy that we have ruled them out.

"So we did have a great public response, but we think the offer of the reward may lead to people who have specific information who are close to the parents of the child, may lead to them potentially coming forward.

Officers at the canal near where the baby boy was found in May

Crimestoppers announced its £5,000 reward on Thursday.

Mick Duthie, director of operations at the charity, said: “This is a particularly sad, tragic case and shocking for the community, so we are keen to have answers as to what happened and who was involved.

“We are urging anyone who may know something to contact our charity anonymously as soon as possible.

“There is concern also for the well-being of the baby’s mother.

“Investigators, who have asked our charity to put up this reward, believe that someone may know or suspect who the mother is.

“We hope that our reward for information given anonymously will help prompt someone’s conscience to speak up and tell us what they know.”

Information can be passed to Crimestoppers’ 0800 555 111 number or via the anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

Anyone with information is asked to call 101, quoting incident number 1963 of May 20.

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