Nicole Harman thought her husband was a kind, caring man- until their baby daughter died
Originally Published: 18 March 2008
When Nicola Harman discovered she was expecting a baby with her boyfriend Scott, she was delighted. The couple got married and, after baby daughter Jessica was born, Scott seemed like a doting dad.
So when eight-month-old Jessica tragically stopped breathing while Scott put her to bed one evening, the couple clung together in their grief. Even when the police revealed their suspicions that Jessica had been shaken to death, Nicola couldn’t believe Scott, now 25, was responsible.
The chilling truth
“He seemed gentle and kind – he never raised his voice,” says Nicola, 33. “When we first got together, he was so romantic. He’d write love notes, and would choose a night cuddled up with me rather than going out to the pub any day.”
But six months after Jessica’s death, Scott attacked their puppy – and the chilling truth began to dawn on Nicola. Now she’s been left wracked with guilt as well as grief.
'Jessica used to cry when she saw Scott.. now I realise she was probably trying to tell me she was frightened of him'
“Jessica used to cry when she saw Scott,” recalls Nicola. “I thought she was doing it to get his attention, so he’d pick her up. But now I realise she was probably trying to tell me she was frightened of him.”
Nicola and Scott had been together for a year when Nicola fell pregnant. Scott proposed and the couple married in April 2003. Jessica was born that August.
She says: “When I first found out I was pregnant, Scott was so excited about being a dad. And he was amazing with Jessica – he changed her nappies, prepared her bottles and fed her in the middle of the night.
“A couple of times, I saw bruises on her ribs – but Scott said she must have rolled on a toy, and I believed him.”
The tragic day
But on 1 April 2004, Nicola was cooking supper at their home in Horam, East Sussex, when Scott called her upstairs where he’d been putting Jessica to bed.
“Jessica was lying on the bed, gasping for breath,” says Nicola. “I thought she’d vomited up her milk and choked on it.
“We called an ambulance and Scott started following instructions from the 999 operator on what to do to help her.”
Paramedics rushed Jessica to Eastbourne District General Hospital, but they couldn’t revive her. By the time Nicola and Scott arrived, their little girl was dead.
“I was screaming,” recalls Nicola. “I shouted at Scott that he should have kept a better eye on her, but he just kept quiet.” But over the next few days, Nicola noticed Scott didn’t seem to be grieving. Nicola says: “He just seemed to carry on as normal. I was utterly destroyed, but it didn’t occur to me that he was to blame.”
Four weeks later, the couple were questioned by police about Jessica’s death, after it emerged she’d died from a head injury. “I had no idea what could have happened,” says Nicola.
“I was also told doctors had found fractures on her ribs, but I thought maybe the paramedics had accidentally injured her while trying to resuscitate her.”
She adds: “Scott said over and over again that he’d never hurt his little girl – and I believed him.”
A viscious side
Both Nicola and Scott were released without charge, but six months later Nicola, a carer, began to realise that Scott had a vicious side.
“I was just coming in from work when I heard our mongrel puppy, Milo, yelping in pain. I found him limping and cowering from Scott,” she says. “Scott said he’d accidentally tripped on him, but that he’d rung the vet, who said Milo was fine. I knew a vet wouldn’t make a diagnosis over the phone, and I could tell Milo was seriously injured.”
It later transpired that Milo’s hip was broken, but thankfully he recovered.
'I began to wonder- if he'd lied to me about hurting the dog, could he have harmed Jessica too? I was terrified'
After the incident, Nicola told Scott to leave – and she slowly began to wonder if he’d been involved in Jessica’s death.
“I began to wonder – if he’d lied to me about hurting the dog, could he have harmed Jessica too? I was terrified.”
Nicola was so distraught, she couldn’t bear to voice her suspicions about what Scott might have done. But in February 2006, the police reopened their investigation into Jessica’s death.
“They told me they planned to arrest Scott, and asked for my help,” says Nicola. “I agreed and told them about Milo and the times I’d found bruises on Jessica. It was then I realised he must have been involved in her death.”
In July 2006, Scott was charged with manslaughter and three counts of child cruelty. And in January this year, Nicola gave evidence against him at Lewes Crown Court, in Sussex. “I was terrified, and couldn’t stop shaking,” says Nicola.
“Scott wouldn’t look me in the eye – he just chewed gum and looked arrogant.”
The court heard that Jessica had died after suffering a head trauma consistent with being slammed against a bed post. She had also suffered 15 rib fractures. Scott was found guilty of manslaughter and child cruelty later that month and was sentenced to seven years behind bars.
Nicola is now divorcing Scott, who has never apologised for what he did.
By Emma Shankland