EARBY: Man denies killing tot in ‘happy slapping’ video case

A JURY was shown shocking video clips of an Earby baby being graphically assaulted by his mother’s boyfriend during a series of “happy slapping” beatings.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 17th November 2010, 1:33 pm

Little Charlie Hunt (15 months) died from serious head injuries after Darren Newton subjected him to a string of assaults for “wicked pleasure” - and filmed them on his mobile phone, it was alleged.

The Manchester Crown Court jury were warned about the “distressing and shocking” nature of the clips which showed Newton carrying out graphic assaults on the toddler at his girlfriend’s home while she was out.

In one clip entitled “shivering no water”, Newton filmed Charlie as he sat shivering naked in an empty bath after the water was let out. Later that same day, he filmed himself hitting Charlie on the head repeatedly and then kicking him as the tot screamed in distress and gave that video clip the title “happy slap”, the jury was told.

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Members of the jury looked visibly upset as the videos were played while Newton sat with his head bowed in the dock.

Other titles shown included: “crying”, “no toys in pen ah”, “2 minutes of pain” and “squeezing toe in cot.”

The horror films emerged when detectives seized a host of video clips from Newton’s mobile phone showing him abusing Charlie at his home in Warwick Drive, Earby.

Prosecutor Denis Watson QC told the court: “The defendant took pleasure from the fact Charlie was the victim of his cruel and, we submit, wicked behaviour.

“Not withstanding the defendant probably hoped he wouldn’t find out, he hit Charlie on the head time and time again and that we suggest is ample proof of his intention to cause serious harm.”

Newton has admitted 12 counts of child cruelty but denies murder and two offences of child cruelty where there is no physical contact. But the prosecution allege they amount to ill-treatment because of the “emotional cruelty” to Charlie.

Mr Watson said factory worker Newton (32) met Laura Chapman, Charlie’s mother when they lived next door to each other.

Ms Chapman, he said, would describe Newton as a “quiet, caring and loving man” who got on well with Charlie. He appeared “protective” of his mobile phone, but Ms Chapman was said to have tolerated that because she was happy.

But Mr Watson added: “The truth is that whatever the outward appearance, it hid a dark, and the prosecution say, wicked side of the defendant which only surfaced when he was alone with Charlie.

“And what is perhaps even more tragic is that side to him was only discovered after Charlie’s death.”

On November 19th last year, Charlie started convulsing while he was being looked after by Newton. He was rushed to Airedale Hospital but despite efforts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead under two hours later.

Medical experts found a number of brain injuries suffered by Charlie which, in their opinion, were caused by blunt force.

Police were called in and Newton was arrested.

He denied hitting Charlie that afternoon and said he had appeared happy and content before he fell ill.

But Mr Watson added: “Between June last year and November last year, Darren Newton, this defendant, carried out repeated assaults and other acts of cruelty on a young boy who was barely a year old.

“Not only did he do that, but he filmed himself doing it on his mobile phone.

The assaults and cruelty, the prosecution say, increased in seriousness over those months.

“On November 5th last year the defendant filmed Charlie, 15 months as he was at the time, as he sat shivering in an empty bath - the water having been let out. And later that same day, he filmed himself hitting Charlie on the head repeatedly and he gave that video clip the title ‘happy slap’.

“Two weeks later on November 19th, Charlie was it seems happy and well when he was with his mother and babysitter that morning.

“However, at 2-30 that afternoon, the defendant was left in sole charge of Charlie and by 5-45 Charlie was dead.

“The defendant not only filmed his actions but titled them as well, and the only logical explanation of that was they were retained for repeated viewings at a later stage. It is perhaps small wonder the defendant was so touchy about Laura Chapman seeing his mobile phone or having access to it.

“The prosecution say when you have seen those video clips and taken account of their content and titles that you can conclude the defendant took pleasure from the fact Charlie was the victim of his cruel and wicked behaviour.”

Newton told police Charlie had suffered a fit, but medical specialists concluded he died of serious head injuries consistent with “a deliberate application of force” and were “non-accidental injuries”.

He had retinal bleeds in both eyes, optic nerve damage, a swollen brain and recent bleeding to the brain.

Mr Watson added: “The doctors conclude Charlie’s injuries were deliberately inflicted. They were not caused during the course of some fit or convulsion but were caused by the deliberate application of force.

“In other words, Charlie had been hit and he had been hit shortly before he died.”

On November 5th, Newton filmed a three-minute clip he called “Happy slap” zooming in on Charlie’s face as he hit him on the head over 10 times before kicking him.

Mr Watson said: “Blows seen in that clip are of great relevance and significance to the events that took place on November 19th.

“While there is no video of the events that took place that afternoon, it is the opinion of Dr Lumb there must have been blows just like those shown on ‘happy slap’ to have caused the injuries sustained on November and which led to Charlie’s death.

“The prosecution submit that these video clips are of great significance and relevance. They demonstrate a pattern of behaviour repeated by the defendant on occasions when he was in sole charge of Charlie.”

The trial, expected to last three weeks, continues.