An Ilfracombe man has been jailed for causing life-threatening injuries to his three-week-old daughter by slamming her against a kitchen counter during a ‘flash of frustration’.

Robin Bearman had just got up to give the little girl her 6am feed when he became angry at her continuous crying and lost his temper with the baby.

He shook the baby violently and hit her head on the counter twice, causing two skull fractures and a serious bleed on the brain. She still suffers from a mis-shaped skull and is behind normal age targets for speech and hearing.

She needed intensive care treatment at Bristol Children's Hospital and was initially thought to have suffered a serious brain injury.

Bearman tried to lie his way out of trouble by inventing a series of false accounts to try to explain the injuries and his wife Lucy fell under suspicion as a result of his deceit.

The baby and an older daughter were taken away from her custody for seven months, when they went to live with her parents, and she only had supervised contact during that time.

She remained under suspicion from June 2017 until Bearman finally came clean in January 2018 and became depressed and suicidal during that time.

Bearman, who is 28 years old, of St Brannocks Road, Ilfracombe, was cleared of causing grievous bodily harm with intent at a trial last month but admitted the lesser offence of inflicting grievous bodily harm.

He was jailed for two years and two months by Judge Timothy Rose, who made a restraining order banning contact with his ex wife and the children for five years.

A judge praised Mrs Bearman's courage after she confronted Bearman in court to read out a moving victim impact statement which laid out the ordeal which she and her two children went through.

She believes both children suffered emotionally through the enforced separation and says the full physical and psychological effects of Bearman's actions will not emerge for many years.

Mrs Bearman said she felt betrayed by her former husband and accused him of being selfish and showing no real remorse.

She faced him across Exeter Crown Court from the witness box and said: "I am still struggling because of his actions and the lies he told afterwards and the nightmare which I and the children have gone through as a result."

Bearman was a trainee teacher who was on the verge of qualifying when he carried out the attack and tried to save his skin by telling an elaborate series of lies. His arrest ended his career.

At first, he told his wife that he banged the baby's head by accident while opening a cupboard but was forced to abandon this fiction after a week when doctors told them it could not be true.

He then invented a second lie in which he said he dropped the baby and she hit her head on his knee when he stuck it out to break her fall.

He only told the truth after three specialists had given evidence in a Family Court case that considerable force would have been needed to cause the injuries.

His wife was at immediate risk of losing custody of both her children until he accepted his full responsibility during the Family Court proceedings.

The judge told Bearman: "The baby was uniquely vulnerable because of her age and relied on you entirely and exclusively to protect her and keep her safe.

"She was crying continually and this would have been rather difficult for you to deal with, but as a father you had a positive duty to deal with it and not to react as you did.

"You were exceptionally violent and were later to describe shaking her forcefully twice and bringing her head down with force against a kitchen counter on two occasions. The reality is that the long term impact of the injuries will never be known.

"What makes this case considerably worse is what you did immediately after the incident. From the word go and thereafter for weeks and months, knowing what you had done and the enormity of the violence, you set about lying about it."

The judge told him his lies had put the baby's life at risk because doctors did not realise the extent of the injury straight away, and had caused immense suffering to his wife, who came under suspicion.

He said: "I have heard her read her personal statement in what I must say was a brave and highly emotional presentation, which included the impact on her and the two children."

During last month's trial the jury heard how Bearman assaulted the three and a half-week-old baby at their former home in Meadowbrook, Barnstaple.

Bearman told the jury he had no intention of hurting his daughter but had done so in a sudden and inexplicable flash of frustration when he had just woken and was tired.

He sobbed as he said: "I had a flash of frustration. I have never experienced anything of that strength before. I felt I had failed. I did not want to hurt her. I was weeping and holding her.

"I did not tell Lucy the truth because of shame and guilt. I knew what I had done. I did not want to be that. I did not want to have done that."

Tom Bradnock, defending, said Bearman feels shame and remorse and has already undertaken 42 sessions of psychotherapy at his own expense to try to understand and deal with the underlying problems that caused his loss of control.