Joby Rowe has been given 6 years behind bars for shaking his 3 month old daughter Alanah to death

A Supreme Court jury has found a Heathcote man guilty of shaking his infant daughter so forcefully, it killed her. Joby Anthony Rowe, 26, had pleaded not guilty to child homicide, but the jury rejected the argument put forward by his defence counsel.

Instead, the jury found Rowe had shaken his baby girl Alanah on August 29, 2015, giving her brain damage that led to her death the following day – the day before she turned three months old. It took the jury one day to return a verdict, a little over a year after Rowe’s first trial ended with a jury unable to reach a verdict.

The court heard that in the lead-up to the incident, Rowe had told his then-partner and Alanah’s mother, Stephanie Knibbs, that their daughter would not stop crying while he was caring for her and Ms Knibbs was at work.

On August 29, Alanah cried during a car trip to an ATM and to drop Ms Knibbs off at work. Alanah was so upset that Ms Knibbs was reluctant to go to work, although she did work her shift that ended at 2.20pm.

When she returned home, she found Alanah lying on the change table and standing over her was Rowe, who said something to the effect of, “Something is wrong with Alanah”. When Ms Knibbs picked her daughter up, she found her limp and floppy with blood coming from her nose.

She then discovered she wasn’t breathing and called her stepmother Joy Knibbs, before calling triple zero. Joy Knibbs came around to the home and they both tried to resuscitate Alanah while waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

After paramedics arrived, Alanah was stabilised and flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Blood tests upon her arrival at the hospital found no explanation for her condition, but a CT scan revealed she had suffered recent and acute bleeding on her brain.

It was also discovered she had sustained significant bleeding in her eyes, bleeding in her spinal cord, and substantial swelling of her brain.

Alanah’s condition was deemed incompatible with life and on August 30, she was taken off life support.

Three expert medical witnesses called by the prosecution during the trial all examined Alanah and came to the conclusion her injuries were caused by shaking.

“The only reasonable explanation on the evidence that you’ve heard is that her father, the accused man, shook her with forces beyond that which she could generate herself – therefore it must have been some outside force – and he told the police she had not fallen, she had not been dropped, [her half-sister] was not rough with her, and there was no other adult between Stephanie being dropped off at the Union Hotel and returning home that Alanah had been in contact with,” Crown prosecutor Ben Ihle told the jury in his closing argument.

Rowe’s defence counsel, James Fitzgerald, had argued the prosecution’s case relied on drawing an inference from medical opinion, and there were no witnesses to say Rowe had shaken his daughter, nor had he admitted to doing so.

It took a supreme court to find Rowe guilty because initially a jury could not find him guilty, his defence counsel basically argued- that even though he was the only adult with her at the time of her injuries and she clearly died as a result of being shaken to death… you can’t prove Mr Rowe did it nor did he admit to doing so

So in other words, even though he was the only one who could have done it. You can’t prove he did it unless he admitted it and guess what he sure as hell isn’t doing that.

Thankfully the supreme court jury saw through this and found Rowe guilty of shaking his baby to death AKA
Child Homicide. Justice Forrest said while Rowe grieved the death of his daughter, it was not clear he was remorseful.

He said Rowe had lied about the incident since the day his daughter died. We at FACAA see this all the time when it comes to child murderers. Thankfully Justice Forrest has also seen this lie before as he told the court the community trusted adults charged with the care of children to carry out the task conscientiously.

“Child homicide is a very serious offence; it’s victims are always defenceless,” the judge said.

“This does you no credit at all,” Justice Forrest said. Justice Forrest said it was likely Rowe shook the girl after becoming frustrated at her unsettled, irritable behaviour.

The judge acknowledged the nature of Rowe’s crime would make him more susceptible to attack while in prison and that he would likely spend much of his sentence in protective custody. He was given a minimum of 6 years behind bars and a maximum of 9. After 6 years it is likely he will be successful for parole as he will spend a large portion of his sentence in protective custody.

So he will spend 6 years behind bars in protective custody, his daughter Alanah is dead. She will never grow up, she will never see her potential which was unlimited before her so called “father” Joby Rowe came along.

We know he was at least found guilty and sentenced, however we can’t help but feel the system has let Alanah, and those who loved her, down. 6 years is a pathetic sentence, little Alanah didn’t even see her first birthday, she was robbed of an entire lifetime, her family were robbed of the joy of watching her grow and share her life with them and we as a society were robbed of the contributions she would make throughout her life. We will never know just what talents and gifts she would have shared with the world.

Our thoughts go out to Alanah’s Mumma and extended family, we are so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful baby girl. No family should ever have to suffer the loss of their baby in such terrible circumstances.

Joby Rowe, whether you choose to admit it or not, you shook your 12 week old daughter Alanah to death ! It may not have been your intention to kill little Alanah, but choosing to shake an infant is making a choice to cause life threatening injuries…..infants cannot survive being shaken.

Taking an infant or child’s life should see the killer behind bars for the rest of their natural life and certainly not in protective custody either !

Then we may start to see less babies dying at the hands of those who are meant to protect them.

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