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Murder probe launched after baby boy thrown into River Irwell

Blackburn Street

Detectives from GMP’s Major Incident Team are continuing to investigate the death of a baby boy who was found in the River Irwell in Radcliffe.

Shortly before 4.25pm yesterday (Wednesday 11 September 2019), police were called to reports that a child was in the River Irwell near to Blackburn Street.

Emergency services – including the police helicopter – immediately attended and the baby boy was retrieved from the water and taken to hospital.

The boy, who is believed to be approximately 11-months-old, sadly died a short time later despite the best efforts of paramedics and specialist doctors.

A Home Office Post Mortem will take place tomorrow (Friday 13 September 2019).

A 22-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody for questioning.

Zak Bennett-Eko has been named locally as the 22-year-old man arrested at the scene (Facebook)

The baby’s father, named locally as Zak Bennett-Eko, 22, was arrested by police as he sat with customers in the nearby Lock Keeper pub. It is believed he had taken his son out to buy milk.

He wandered into the pub moments after the boy fell into the water and ordered a drink, and sat there and ‘stared’ according to witnesses. He is in custody and is being quizzed by police.

A scene is still in place on Blackburn Street, at the junctions with Stand Lane and Radcliffe New Road, whilst further enquiries are carried out by specialist officers this morning.

Detectives are urging any witnesses to get in touch as a matter of urgency and are particularly keen for anyone with images or videos which show the incident or the immediate aftermath to send them to the investigation team via Dropbox, using [email protected].

Emma Blood and Zakari

Emma Blood, 22, has posted an emotional statement on Facebook this morning after her son Zakari plunged to his death into the River Irwell.

The grieving mother, who describes her son as ‘my world, my heart, my soul’ on her social media profile, wrote ‘ I wish I was dead’ and said he sat with him ‘for hours’, not knowing he had died until she arrived at hospital that evening.

Ms Blood wrote today: “I lost my baby today. I love my little boy and did everything for him.

“I didn’t know my child was dead until I got to A&E. We sat with him for hours, we held him, we kissed him and then I left.

“Let me grieve for my child, my whole world and so much more. I am alive, although I wish I was dead.”

Detective Inspector Wes Knights, who is leading the investigation on behalf of the Major Incident Team, 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.

“We currently have a suspect in custody, who will be questioned by detectives later today, however our investigation does not stop there and we need anybody with information to come forward and help us get answers for this little boy’s loved ones.

“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.

“Given the time this happened and the large number of witnesses present, we know that some of the incident was captured in images or on video so I want ask people to provide these to the investigation team, via Dropbox.

“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.

“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.”

Anyone with information should call police on 0161 856 8797 or 101 quoting incident number 1930 of 11/09/2019, or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111. Anybody with images or video of the incident can send them to police via Dropbox using [email protected]

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