A mother and stepfather are to be sentenced over the death of a 10-month-old boy who endured “significant pain and suffering” as part of “repeated physical abuse”.
Craig Crouch, 39, was convicted on Wednesday of the “vicious” murder of Jacob Crouch at their Derbyshire home in December 2020, as well as three counts of child cruelty.
Jacob’s mother, Gemma Barton, 33, was cleared of murder and manslaughter but found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child, and one count of child cruelty.
They were convicted following a seven-week trial at Derby Crown Court which heard from prosecutors that Jacob was the victim of a “culture of cruelty” which saw him “assaulted on a regular basis” by Crouch over six months.
The youngster was found dead in his cot on December 30, 2020 at the family home in Foxley Chase, Linton, Swadlincote, despite Crouch claiming in a 999 call that Jacob was “fine” just two hours before he died.
A post-mortem examination found that he had died as a result of peritonitis – an infection of the lining of the abdominal organs – caused by a traumatic bowel perforation.
Dr Michael Biggs, a forensic pathologist, told the trial that this could have only been caused by blunt force trauma, such as a punch, kick or stamp.
Further examinations found that Jacob also had 39 rib fractures, 19 visible bruises and internal injuries, which Dr Biggs likened to those seen in car crash victims.
In text messages, Crouch told Barton she needed to be more “regimental” with Jacob, claimed he was “starting to get really pissed off with him” and talked about bathing him in bleach.
Crouch, a former forklift driver at JCB, denied ever having harmed Jacob and suggested the injuries could have been caused by his stepson falling over or hitting himself with a toy, an explanation that a consultant paediatrician labelled “not remotely” possible.
But the jury unanimously rejected Crouch’s account after four days of deliberation.
Barton also denied ever having hurt her son, instead blaming her partner, and said that she went along with Crouch’s parenting style as it was “Craig’s way or no way”.
Crouch, of Donisthorpe Lane, Moira, Leicestershire, and Barton, of Ray Street, Heanor, Derbyshire, were remanded into custody by Mr Justice Kerr following the guilty verdicts.
He will sentence them at the same court on Friday, with the hearing listed to start at 10.30am.