A man who fatally injured his baby stepson nearly 50 years ago by swinging him into a fireplace has been convicted of his murder.
David Dearlove, 71, was found guilty of killing 18-month old Paul Booth following a 10-day trial at Teesside Crown Court.
Cleveland Police began an investigation in 2015 after Paul’s brother, Peter Booth, told them he had been killed by their stepfather David Dearlove on the evening of 1 October 1968. He reported he had seen Dearlove swinging Paul by the ankles and smashing his head into the fireplace. Paul suffered a fatal skull fracture and died later that night.
At the time of Paul’s death police began an investigation and interviewed Dearlove and Paul’s mother, the only adults in the house at the time. Both stated that while he was in the sole care of Dearlove, Paul fell from his bed and hit his head on a hard floor which caused the injury. No police action was taken against either Dearlove or Paul’s mother, and a subsequent inquest recorded an open verdict.
In 2015 Peter Booth went to police after seeing a photograph on Facebook which showed Dearlove and Paul together shortly before Paul’s death. Upset at the photo, Mr Booth spoke with his cousin about what had happened, who contacted police to report the incident on his behalf.
Medical evidence obtained from Paul Booth’s post-mortem examination in 1968 played a crucial role in this case.
It was not possible to exhume his body as burial records have since been lost, which meant there was no opportunity to carry out a new post-mortem examination or a forensic analysis of his injuries.
However, records from the post-mortem examination undertaken directly after Paul’s death showed a large number of bruises of varying ages across his body. Of most significance were bruises on Paul’s ankles, which were recorded by the pathologist at the time of his examination and which matched Peter Booth’s account of seeing Dearlove grab Paul by the ankles and swing him into the fireplace, causing the fatal head injury.
John Brennan from the CPS said:
“For almost 50 years David Dearlove has lied about the death of his stepson, who he said fell out his bed and accidentally injured his head. Throughout this investigation he gave false explanations and also lied about significant injuries which the baby had suffered in the weeks before he died. Those lies have been exposed thanks to Peter Booth, and Dearlove will now face the consequences of his horrendous actions.
“Alongside Mr Booth’s testimony the CPS was able to present medical evidence that assessed the injuries Paul suffered five decades ago in light of scientific developments since then. This included evidence concerning bruising to Paul’s ankles, which supported Mr Booth’s account that Dearlove had grabbed him and swung him into the fireplace that evening.
“Thanks to Mr Booth’s bravery and that of his sister who also assisted the investigation, as well as the clear evidence presented to the jury, Dearlove will be held to account for Paul Booth’s death.”
Dearlove will be sentenced this afternoon (1 December).
Notes to editors
· John Brennan is a Senior Crown Prosecutor at CPS North-East
· David Dearlove was convicted of one count of murder and three counts of cruelty to a child
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