Dad who blamed son's death on falling out of tree in Derbyshire park jailed for murdering him

Michael Harrison and Shipley Country Park - where he tried to blame his son's death on him falling from a tree
Michael Harrison murdered his son and tried to cover it up by claiming he fell out of a tree at Shipley Country Park in Heanor, Derbyshire (pictured). Credit: PA/Derbyshire Police

A dad who killed his 11-year-old son and covered up his tracks said "I will always love my family" as he was jailed for life for murder.

Michael Harrison, 41, wore a T-shirt emblazoned with the word "family" as he was sentenced at Derby Crown Court for killing his son.

He initially told police that his son Mikey Harrison had suffered injuries as a result of falling out of a tree close to Shipley Country Park in Heanor, Derbyshire.

Sentencing Harrison for the murder of his son Mikey Harrison, Judge Shaun Smith KC said the defendant had lied about the killing and taken the victim to a park as part of an attempted cover-up.

Mikey's life tragically cut short at the hands of someone who was meant to love and care for him, police say

The judge told Harrison: "At 18 minutes past one on Saturday June 18 (2022) you embarked upon a charade solely intended to protect yourself.

"That was because you had attacked your 11-year-old son Mikey. You hit and punched him many times. At least one of those blows was so hard it lacerated his liver.

"Rather than face up to what you had done, you made a call to the ambulance service to report that Mikey had fallen out of a tree.

"What you did that morning ended the life of a little boy and emptied the lives of many others."

As he was led from the dock Harrison said: "I will always love my family no matter what you lot say."

In an impact statement read out in court Mikey was described as a "special boy" who was "sweet, funny and shy with a beautiful smile and who loved singing to his teddies".

There were tears in the public gallery as the statement was read out. At points the judge Shaun Smith KC also struggled with emotion as he read out the statement.

Following the verdict, Detective Inspector Paul Bullock of Derbyshire Police, issued a statement outside court where he branded the attack as "heartbreaking and unfathomable".

"[Michael] Harrison - a strong and fully grown man - would've been under no illusion that Mikey was anything other than seriously injured.

"Instead of seeking the medical help that he clearly so badly needed, he attempted to concoct a story that Mikey had fallen from a tree in a nearby park - even driving there to ring the ambulance service in an attempt to make his story more believable."

Mr Bullock adds: "The fact that Mikey's life was tragically cut short at the hands of someone who was meant to love and care for him is heartbreaking and unfathomable."

Harrison pleaded guilty to murder at Derby Crown Court earlier last month (Monday 3 April), having initially denied murder and pleading guilty to a charge of manslaughter.

Earlier today, Harrison was jailed for life with a minimum term of 21 years and six months, minus the 319 days already served in prison.

Ambulance crews were called to the Thorpes Road area at around 1.15pm on Saturday, June 18 2022, after receiving a report that Mikey was injured.

He later died in hospital, after suffering abdominal injuries caused by punches to the stomach from his father.

The court on Thursday heard Mikey sustained multiple blunt force injuries to his face, back, arms and legs.

The cause of death was laceration to the liver (one-and-a-half litres of blood went into his stomach cavity).

At a previous hearing, his barrister, Vanessa Marshall KC, said: "I can make it clear it is the defendant's case that his son did not fall out of a tree but that he punched his abdomen area several times.

"There was a subsequent fall by his son where he fell in a bathroom and Mr Harrison believes he sustained a head injury and may well have fallen on his stomach."

In a statement released shortly after Mikey's death, Chief Superintendent Hayley Barnett, of Derbyshire Police, said: "I completely understand that the tragic news of a young boy’s death has sparked shock and concern in the local community and that people will speculate about the circumstances surrounding the death.

"As is always the case once charges are brought, we are limited in what we can say due to ongoing court proceedings.

"I would, however, like to offer reassurance to the public, that we are treating this as an isolated incident."

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