A father was planning his son’s first birthday party just days before he allegedly threw him to his death into a river in his Moses basket, family members said today.
Zak Bennett Eko, 22, was arrested after baby Zakari died in the River Irwell, in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester at 4.30pm yesterday.
The suspect, who its believed had taken his son out to buy milk after a row with the boys mother, was found minutes later inside the nearby Lock Keeper pub.
The boy’s grief-stricken mother Emma Blood, 22, posted an emotional statement on Facebook this morning, telling how she has ‘lost my son’ and said she ‘wished I was dead.’
Describing her son as ‘my world, my heart, my soul’ and told how she spent the final moments with him after his death.
Zakari’s maternal great-grandfather has now revealed how Bennett Eko and Ms Blood were a ‘happy couple.’
In her statement Ms Blood wrote: ‘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’
The alleged killer, named locally as Zak Bennett-Eko was seen by witnesses entering the pub and trying to buy a drink. He is understood to be in custody and being quizzed by police
Emma Blood (pictured in hospital with her son) has posted an emotional statement on Facebook this morning after the death of her son Zakari, and wrote: ‘I love my little boy and did everything for him’
David Kavanagh, 67, told The Sun: ‘I only saw him and his parents on Monday. He was a great lad.
‘Emma and Zak seemed like a happy couple, she was a loving mother. She was taking Zakari to playgroup and they were making plans for his first birthday.
‘One of my daughters came round to tell me what had happened. It’s the worst thing you could imagine. I was totally shocked.
‘It’s a terrible tragedy and the family are desperate to know why it happened.’
Paramedics battled to save the boy after he was pulled from the water by firefighters, some 100 yards from the bridge. He was taken to hospital but pronounced dead a short time later.
Detectives are continuing to appeal for information and believe that parts of the incident were captured on camera by members of the public.
An photograph posted on Bennett-Eko’s Facebook page. It is captioned: ‘My little big man’
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.’
Yesterday a barmaid working at the Lock Keeper told how a man came in and asked to buy a drink, but had no money.
Ms Blood’s Facebook profile picture showing her with her son
A montage of photos showing the baby boy is on his mother’s Facebook page
Ms Blood describes Zakari as ‘my world, my heart, my soul’ on Facebook
Zak Bennett-Eko has been named locally as the 22-year-old man arrested at the scene
She said: ‘Then loads of people came in screaming that there’s a baby in the river.
‘He sat there and stared, he didn’t move so the police were phoned and he just told a customer that he’d thrown his baby in the river.
‘Everyone was up barring him, he sat there and stared and didn’t move.
‘The police were phoned to say ‘we think we have who you’re looking for”
Paramedics battled to save the boy after he was pulled from the water, some 100 yards from the bridge (pictured)
Forensics officers in nearby Peel Street after the baby boy was rescued from the River Irwell
Police outside a house in a nearby residential street. The boy could not be resuscitated in hospital
A map showing the location of the bridge and the Lock Keeper pub in Radcliffe
Another witness told the Manchester Evening News: ‘It was a very small child in the river, I thought it was a doll when I saw it.
‘I thought someone was on the run.’
Another resident posted on social media: ‘I was there 30 mins ago and everybody there was crying and saying a man has thrown his newborn in.’
Greater Manchester Police have now launched a murder investigation and a residential road near the scene has been cordoned off.
The force said a post mortem will take place tomorrow.
Floral tributes have been left at the scene today on the bridge over the River Irwell
Two teddy bears have been left on the bridge, next to two candles
Floral tributes have continued to arrive throughout the day, and now stretch right across the bridge
One of the many tributes left at the scene today
This card reads: ‘Difficult to comprehend what has happened. What kind of world do we live in when an innocent baby can lose their life in this way’
Tearful mourners, many who were mothers with young children, have left more than 100 bunches of flowers, soft toys and candles on the bridge.
Among the tributes was a large cuddly bear with a card that read: ‘To a beautiful little boy. Sleep tight little man. Our thoughts are with your family. From all of us at Lidl Radcliffe.’
One card with flowers read: ‘Goodnight and God Bless beautiful innocent boy. Fly high Angel.’
The boy’s grandfather was too upset to comment as he visited the bridge. He left a card that read: ‘To my beautiful grandson. We love you so much RIP.’
Ms Blood’s Facebook page is packed with pictures of her son. She announced her pregnancy in February 2018, where she wrote on Facebook: ‘I honestly can not hold back anymore, we are over the moon that we are expecting a baby.’
Among the tributes was a large cuddly bear with a card that read: ‘To a beautiful little boy. Sleep tight little man. Our thoughts are with your family. From all of us at Lidl Radcliffe’
A balloon has been attached to the bridge in Radcliffe with a tribute that read: ‘In the arms of the angels’
A police officer mans a cordon near the bridge were the baby was allegedly thrown into the water
A police cordon in place on Peel Street in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester following the death of the baby boy
After her first scan she wrote: ‘Today we seen our little baba who has a very strong heartbeat, healthy and is perfect in every single way.
‘Mummy & Daddy love you always our little cherub.
‘The past ten weeks have flown by it won’t be long until we meet you in person.’
In a selfie in hospital with her new son in October last year she wrote: ‘He’s just so perfect and so good. He was worth every bit of pain. We love you Zakari.’
Today a taxi driver who has lived on the street next to where the death took place said: ‘I have never seen anything like it. Everyone is going mad around here.
The 57-year-old added: ‘He was a quiet lad but as a couple they didn’t get on.’
Another nearby neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘We looked out of the bedroom window and saw the cordons, that was about 5pm yesterday.
A barmaid working at the pub (pictured) said of the suspect: ‘He came in and asked for a drink but said he had no money’
A 22-year-old man has been arrested for murder after throwing a 12-month-old boy off a bridge and to his death
‘It is just mad, there are no words to be spoken. We don’t know the full situation.’
Detective Inspector Wes Knights, who is leading the investigation on behalf of the Major Incident Team, said they want to hear from anyone with ‘images or videos which show the incident or the aftermath.’
He said today: ‘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.
The man, believed to be the father, has been arrested on suspicion of murder and police say investigations are underway
‘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.
‘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.’
A spokeswoman for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘We were called at 4.28pm to a rescue of a person in water in Pilkington Way, Radcliffe.
‘Fire engines from Whitefield, Farnworth and Eccles attended the incident along with a water incident unit from Eccles.
‘Crews rescued one casualty who was then handed over to NWAS (North West Ambulance Service).’
A barmaid working at the pub said: ‘He came in and asked for a drink but said he had no money.
Greater Manchester Police said it was called to the scene shortly before 4.25pm on Wednesday
The boy was thrown off the Blackburn Street bridge and into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester
The boy was given first aid at the scene before being rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead
Greater Manchester Police still had the area cordoned off as of 9.55pm
Members of the community in Radcliffe have responded to the tragedy on social media, expressing their shock at the incident.
One user commented: ‘Totally horrific beyond comprehension.
‘Worked in Radcliffe, know the area but this is just so utterly horrible.’
Another said: ‘Heartbreaking how this can ever be explained as a domestic incident is beyond me. Rest in peace little man.’
A social media user said on Facebook that a candlelight vigil was being prepared to take place tomorrow at the bridge where the incident occurred.
A JustGiving page has also been set up to help pay for the cost of the funeral.
‘Weʼre raising £1,000 to the funeral of the local little boy who sadly passed away after he was thrown in the river Irwell.’ By 11am this morning it had already raised £2,300.
Helen Coverdale, who set up the page, said: ‘I set the Just Giving page up last night.
‘Just being a mother, and being a human being, what happened absolutely shook me to my core.
‘I felt I needed and wanted to do something. If I am being honest I wanted to pick him up and give him a big hug.
‘When I heard he had passed away everybody was saying they wanted to do something to remember him, something like a headstone or flowers on the bridge.’
The 45-year-old, from Radcliffe, added: ‘The response has been amazing, within an hour it was £700.
‘I put £1,000 that was the target, it has now hit £2,000. ‘It shows we are a lovely community.’