THE grieving family of a baby who died after being hurled into a river from a bridge said they “wish they could have protected” him and “don’t know how they will get through this”.
Baby Zakari, who was 11 months old, was tossed into the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, in a Moses basket on Wednesday afternoon.
Zakari was rushed to hospital from the scene in the town centre but died a short time later.
The boy’s dad Zak Bennett-Eko, 22, was arrested inside nearby pub The Lock Keeper on suspicion of murder at around 4.30pm yesterday.
He had wandered in and asked for a drink just minutes after hurling 11-month-old Zakari to his death, it was claimed.
Zakari’s devastated family said today they “wish they could have protected” the 11-month-old baby.
Aunt Channelle Farrell wrote on Facebook: “Oh baby boy my one and only nephew I am so so sorry. I wish I could have known so I could have protected you.
“My heart is hurting I have never felt pain like this. I just want you back I love you so much my beautiful brave boy we will miss you everyday life will never be the same again. I don’t know how I will get through this.”
Zakari’s granddad Addy Eko added: “Good bless little man still got your dummy here. I’ll bring it soon. So sorry…wish it were me, not you, so unfair.”
The tragic baby’s mum, Emma Blood, posted on Facebook this morning to reveal Bennett-Eko had taken his son “to the shop for milk” when the horror unfolded.
She added: “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.
“I am alive, although I wish I was dead instead.
“Let me grieve for my child, my whole world and so much more.”
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Emma, who has since deleted the post, has dedicated her Facebook bio to the baby, saying: “Zakari, my world, my heart, my soul”.
Her dad Andy Blood also paid tribute to the baby, saying: “It’s heartbreaking. You can imagine what it’s like for a granddad to lose his grandson.”
Zakari’s maternal great-grandfather revealed how Bennett-Eko was busy planning the tot’s first birthday party next month.
David Kavanagh, 67, said: “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.”
Horrified eyewitnesses told how the baby was thrown in a Moses basket off the bridge to his death.
It is alleged Bennett then strolled into the local pub and sat down minutes before cops rushed in and arrested him on suspicion of murder.
Paramedics battled to save the little boy after firefighters pulled him from the water around 100 yards from the bridge.
The tot was rushed to hospital but was sadly pronounced dead shortly after arrival. A post mortem is due to take place tomorrow.
The daughter of a barmaid at the Lock Keeper said the suspect “came in and asked for a drink but said he had no money.”
She added: “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.”
Tearful mourners, many who were mothers with young children, have left flowers, soft toys and candles on the bridge.
BABY BRIDGE HORROR
Two fire engines, ambulances, police cars and a police helicopter were scrambled to the scene as a huge emergency response was launched near the town centre.
A police cordon remains in place and cops are appealing for information.
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.
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“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.
“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.”
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