The anguished mother of a baby boy who died after allegedly being thrown from a bridge into a river in front of horrified onlookers says she wishes "I was dead instead".

Emma Blood, 22, yesterday told of her grief at the loss of her 11-month-old son Zakari, paying an emotional tribute to "my world, my heart, my soul".

She described the unimaginable moment she arrived at A&E to be told he was dead.

Relatives revealed she and her partner had been planning Zakari's first birthday next month in the run-up to Wednesday's tragedy.

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Staff at a pub close to the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, told how the boy's 22-year-old father Zak Bennett-Eko ordered a drink shortly after the child plunged into the water, sat there and "stared".

Shortly afterwards he was arrested by police and led away for questioning, they said.

Zak Bennett-Eko was arrested on suspicion of murder. Photo / Supplied
Zak Bennett-Eko was arrested on suspicion of murder. Photo / Supplied

On her Facebook page, Miss Blood told how her partner had gone with their son from their home near the river to buy milk.

As police yesterday cordoned off a residential street near the scene, neighbours claimed the couple used to argue regularly.

Shocked witnesses rang 999 to say a baby had plunged into the river from a bridge just before 4.30pm, with some reporting he had been in a Moses basket.

Zakari was rescued by firemen around 100 yards from the bridge and given first aid at the scene. Police initially said he was in a critical condition, but his mother posted that when she arrived at A&E she was told he was dead. Miss Blood wrote: "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.

Emma Blood told of her grief at the loss of her 11-month-old son Zakari. Photo / Supplied
Emma Blood told of her grief at the loss of her 11-month-old son Zakari. Photo / Supplied

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

In response to online trolls who questioned what she had been doing, she revealed she hadn't known what had happened until 7pm that night. "I was not there!" she wrote. "I didn't touch my child!"

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Miss Blood revealed the shocking moment when Zakari was allegedly thrown into the water had been caught on CCTV footage, which police have now recovered.

Social media posts by Mr Bennett-Eko suggest he doted on his baby son, writing "Mad love for my son" shortly after he was born last October. He posted a photograph last month of a smiling Zakari dressed in a white cardigan, captioning it: "My little big man."

Miss Blood's Facebook page is packed with pictures of her son.

She announced her pregnancy there in February last year, writing: "I honestly cannot hold back any more, we are over the moon that we are expecting a baby."

But relatives and local residents yesterday expressed their horror over Zakari's death.

The baby's great-grandfather 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."

Mr Kavanagh, of Cheetham Hill, Manchester, who is Miss Blood's grandfather, said: "She was taking Zakari to playgroup and they were making plans for his first birthday. It's the worst thing you could imagine. I was totally shocked. I've got no idea what would make someone do this.

"No one could have thrown a baby into a river unless there was something badly wrong with him.

"It's a terrible tragedy and the family are desperate to know why it happened."

The baby boy was found by emergency services near the bridge in the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester. Photo / Supplied
The baby boy was found by emergency services near the bridge in the River Irwell in Radcliffe, Greater Manchester. Photo / Supplied

Addy Eko, 38, the baby's grandfather and Mr Bennett-Eko's father, wrote on social media: "God bless little man, still got your dummy here I'll bring it soon", adding: "So sorry, wish it (was) me not you, so unfair." Miss Blood's father, Andrew, 49, visited the scene of his grandson's death to lay a floral tribute.

Afterwards he explained: "It's heartbreaking. You can imagine what it's like for a grandad to lose his grandson."

A 57-year-old taxi driver who lived near Miss Blood and her partner claimed that they had been known to argue.

It is believed the suspect walked into the nearby Lock Keeper pub after the incident and told drinkers what had happened, and was arrested there by police.

The daughter of a staff member who witnessed the arrest said: "He came in and asked for a drink but said he had no money. My mum said that was totally fine because people do that, then loads of people came in screaming 'there's a baby in the river'."

She said he "sat there and stared, he didn't move" before police arrived to take him away.

Candles, toys and cards were left on the bridge in tribute to Zakari yesterday. Local resident Helen Coverdale, 45, set up an online fundraising page to cover the funeral costs, which raised more than £3000 in a matter of hours.

Detectives have appealed for people who they said had filmed the incident to send footage to officers, saying that the baby had been in the area "for a number of hours beforehand".

Detective Inspector Wes Knights, who is leading the investigation, 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." He thanked people who had tried their best to retrieve Zakari from the river and appealed for more witnesses.