Man guilty of murdering toddler in brutal attack after losing temper

A 22-year-old man has been found guilty of murdering a two-year-old boy by "punching or kicking" him in the stomach in a "loss of temper".

Joseph Eke inflicted the fatal injuries when he had been left alone with Harry House at their family home in Broadmayne, Dorset, for a few minutes while the child's mother popped to the shops on May 26 last year.

Following a three-week trial, a jury at Winchester Crown Court found Eke guilty of murder as well as grievous bodily harm, but not guilty of wounding.

Cries of "Yes" and sobbing could be heard from the public gallery as the verdicts were announced, while Eke showed no emotion.

Adam Feest QC, prosecuting, told the court Harry died as a result of a blunt-force impact to the abdomen, probably by punching or kicking, which was of such force that it split the pancreas in two.

He said: "The defendant attacked Harry in such a violent way he caused multiple severe internal injuries and skull fracture.

Harry House

"The force would have been severe and significant and in landing that blow or blows on such a small child, that degree of force would have been obvious to the defendant."

Harry's mother Lauren O'Neill, 22, told the court her son went "all floppy" in her arms after Eke told her he was not feeling well.

She said: "Harry was crying and he spoke to me and said he was okay and then he went all floppy and was making weird noises and his eyes were rolling in his head.

"He seemed to deteriorate really, really quickly.

"He was really, really floppy, his eyes were in his head, he was a funny colour and making funny noises."

The court heard Eke urged Ms O'Neill not to call for an ambulance, telling her Harry could be put into care.

And in July last year, Eke assaulted Ms O'Neill, including slapping her with a Subway sandwich, after she "took a swipe" at him after he accused her of killing Harry.

The GBH charge related to several broken ribs which were found during a post-mortem examination.

The wounding charge, of which Eke was cleared, related to an incident two months prior to his death when Harry suffered a cut to his face on Easter Sunday which Eke said had been caused by the toddler falling over on to a plate.

Eke, of St Lawrence Road, Upwey, Weymouth, had denied the offences and had told the court: "I didn't kill him, I wouldn't kill him. I wouldn't harm a kid."

The judge, Mrs Justice May, adjourned the case for sentencing on June 5 and Eke was remanded in custody until then.

Detective Chief Inspector Sarah Derbyshire, of Dorset Police, said the family were "relieved" at the verdicts.

She said: "They are relieved, thankful, it's the right decision. It's been incredibly difficult for them, with the loss of a beautiful two-and-a-half year toddler who had the rest of his life to lead.

"So the loss of him, the grieving of him, then police investigation, a three-week court case but today's verdict has made them more content, I hope."

Describing the scene at the family home when police arrived, she said: "Initially, ambulance staff and uniform officers went to the cottage that Harry lived in with his mum and Joseph Eke and were presented with a very poorly child so at that stage we didn't know what happened and it took some time to piece it all together.

"The injuries were catastrophic, very severe bruising to his abdomen and the force that had been used on his abdomen had pushed everything through to his spine and those injuries ultimately caused his death."

Speaking of the impact on the investigation team, she said: "It has been difficult. He was a lovely two-and-a-half year old boy through the investigation, although I never met him in person, we sort of feel we know him.

"We have worked tirelessly, piecing through the evidence, working with specialists from the medical profession until ultimately we have achieved justice today."

KEYWORDS: toddler, murder, man

 

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