Shaken to death

Happychild: Kacey Hambleton pictured playing in a swing. Below, Connor Gibson
Happychild: Kacey Hambleton pictured playing in a swing. Below, Connor Gibson

A Blackpool man is facing a lengthy jail term after shaking a toddler to death after he “lost his temper”.

Connor Gibson, 23, admitted killing Kacey Hambleton on the day he was due to stand trial for her murder.

Connor Gibson, 23, of Melrose Avenue, Layton, has admitted killing two-year-old Kacey Hambleton (right).

Connor Gibson, 23, of Melrose Avenue, Layton, has admitted killing two-year-old Kacey Hambleton (right).

The “violent assault” left two-year-old Kacey, with injuries to her head, liver and abdomen – similar to those expected in a car crash, a court was told.

Gibson, of Melrose Avenue, Layton, denied murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter yesterday at Preston Crown Court.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting, said: “There was considerable force used. She suffered a catastrophic head injury caused by a matter of shaking.

“He shook her seeking to quell her, resulting in the immediate cause of her demise.

“There were other significant injuries to the abdomen caused by a violent assault in anger, during which injuries were caused to the thigh and significant bruising to the liver. They were the result of a forceful blow likely to be expected in a car accident or a fall from a height.”

Gibson was Kacey’s mother’s boyfriend. His plea was accepted by the prosecution.

Officers were called by the ambulance service to attend a house on Granby Avenue, Layton, at around 10am on April 10, where Kacey was found unresponsive.

She was taken by ambulance to Blackpool Victoria Hospital but later transferred by air ambulance to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, in a critical condition, where she died of her injuries.

A post mortem established Kacey had suffered severe head injuries, a lacerated liver, along with bruising to the lining of her stomach. There was also bruising to other parts of her body.

David Fish, defending, said Gibson “seemed to be leading a relatively normal life” and had no history of assaulting the child.

He added: “He was very happy with his then girlfriend and she was with him.

“This is not the sort of case where there was a build-up of violence or anything else, but classically appears to be a flare up. It was, we will say, a loss of temper.”

Speaking after yesterday’s court hearing, Det Insp Richard McCutcheon said: “At the heart of this tragic case is the sad death of a young child who needlessly lost her life at the hands of Connor Gibson.

“I am thankful today’s plea has spared Kacey’s family the ordeal of having to sit through a trial so that they do not have to relive the tragic circumstances surrounding her death.”

Gibson, who appeared in court wearing a grey tracksuit, will be sentenced on Friday.

Father tells of his heartache

Neighbours were left in shock when paramedics removed little Kacey Hambleton’s battered body from her Layton home in April.

Ambulance crews found the toddler unconscious and “unresponsive” at the address on Granby Avenue.

Kacey died at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool two days later.

Within hours floral tributes and teddies with touching messages had begun to be left outside the house.

Neighbours described their sorrow at the death of the toddler.

But none were more devastated than Kacey’s father Russel Hambleton who described the little girl as his “little princess”

He said: “My little princess is gone and I feel like my heart has been ripped out.

“Kacey was a beautiful little girl with so much to live for, she has been taken from us far too soon.”

Charles Pitt, 77, of Granby Avenue, said: “It’s a huge shock and I find it hard to believe it. It doesn’t make much sense.

Ann Holland, 62, from Annesley Avenue, Layton, added: “It has come as a shock to me because you never think things like this will happen.

“A tot dying is tragic because it’s bad enough when it’s an adult.”

Margaret Newton, of nearby Sherwood Avenue, said: “I have grandchildren that age and it’s horrible to think about it.”

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: “It’s disgusting to think she’s been hurt.”

Police were originally called by the paramedics to attend Kacey’s home on Granby Avenue, after ambulance crews had earlier been called there.