Great Yarmouth man David Dearlove gives evidence during toddler murder trial
- Credit: Evening Gazette
A grandfather from Great Yarmouth who is said to have killed his stepson 50 years has today been giving evidence during his murder trial.
David Dearlove, 71, of Wolseley Road, is standing trial on a charge of murdering his 19-month-old stepson at the then family home in Haverton Hill, Stockton, Teesside in October 1968.
Today he told he gave the infant 'a shaking' on the night he died.
Dearlove, 71, told Teesside Crown Court it was playfully done to the infant Paul Booth and when he hit his head on the pillow it would not have hurt.
The former ICI worker is charged with murdering Paul and cruelty charges against the toddler's older brother Peter and sister Stephanie.
Peter has told the jury he saw Dearlove swing his brother by the ankles and bash his head against the fireplace in October 1968.
Dearlove denies it, saying Paul fell out of bed.
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Giving evidence in his defence, he told Tim Roberts QC he had never intentionally harmed Paul, or deliberately been cruel to the three children.
Mr Roberts went through parts of his statement to police in 1968 with the defendant, then aged 21, who had been living with the late Carol Booth in Haverton Hill, Stockton, Teesside for around three months.
He told police at the time how his moped had fallen on Paul in the back yard some weeks before his death.
The jury has heard concerns were raised at nursery as a result of bruises staff had seen.
On the night Paul died, Dearlove had washed him before putting him in bed.
He then told police in 1968, 'I gave him a shaking, he only hit his head on the pillow and I don't think that would have hurt.'
From the witness box, Dearlove explained: 'It was something I did all the time, if I was putting him in bed I would give him a little shake and throw him on the pillow. He liked it.'
Dearlove said he held Paul under the arms to do it and shook him for 'just a few seconds'.
Dearlove told police in 1968 how he was having a wash when he heard Paul scream and found him lying on the floor, semi-conscious.
The stepfather shouted for Mrs Booth and tried to revive the boy.
The couple went to hospital with Paul in an ambulance, leaving the two other children at home with a neighbour looking after them.
After a while a nurse heard them discuss the children, Dearlove told police in 1968, and she said the parents could go home.
In his statement he said they 'sat about' at home until the police came at 11.30pm and told them to ring the hospital.
He called from a public box and was advised to come back, but Dearlove said he could not return, explaining to the jury he had no car and there were no buses at that time.
Over the phone, he was told that Paul had died and he went home to tell Mrs Booth.
They stayed up for another hour and a quarter before they went to bed, Dearlove said.
Mr Roberts said: 'Have you any recollection of what that hour was like after you imparted that news to her.'
Dearlove replied: 'No, I cannot remember.'
He told the police at the time how he sometimes used the flat of his hand to hit Paul on the body, but told the court it was a game.
Dearlove told the jury: 'I used to smack him on the bum.
'Every time I smacked him he used to run, it was a little game we used to play.'
Mrs Booth went on to have his son, also David, on New Year's Eve 1968 but Dearlove wept as he recalled how they broke up two years after Paul's death.
After drying his eyes, he said: 'I was not very happy about it, but you just have to get on with it.'
Dearlove told the court how he eventually started a new life in London, living in Surrey Quays, got married and had two daughters.
Now a grandfather, he moved to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, where he was arrested in 2015 on suspicion of Paul's murder and driven to Middlesbrough for questioning.
He said: 'I was scared, I was nervous, I didn't know what was going to happen to me.'
He told Teesside Crown Court he liked and cared for Paul Booth and his older brother Peter and sister Stephanie.
Under cross-examination from Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, Dearlove agreed that if what Peter and Stephanie alleged was false then they would be 'truly wicked lies'.
Mr Wright said: 'They are tormenting you in your retirement years, having you arrested from your home in Yarmouth?' Dearlove replied: 'Yes.'
Mr Wright asked: 'Did you love them?' Dearlove replied: 'I would say no.'
Mr Wright asked: 'Did you like them?' Dearlove agreed, and said theirs was a happy home together.
But he did not see Peter again after splitting from their mother Carol in 1970, he told the court, and he only saw Stephanie once by chance 12 years ago and did not speak to her.
His first encounter with Peter since last seeing him as a little boy was when Mr Booth gave evidence in court to say he saw Dearlove swinging his little brother by the ankles against a fireplace.
Dearlove agreed there had been no recent family fall out to prompt the serious allegations.
Mr Wright asked about the night Paul died, after Dearlove had heard the news over the phone.
He asked: 'The child you say you cared about and liked, a baby, had died in your home that night ... it must have been terrible.'
Dearlove said: 'I cannot remember what my feelings were.'
Mr Wright said: 'Think back, this happy little baby you had been tossing up and down by the fire earlier in the evening, you found him with a fatal injury, and the woman you loved - Carol - had just lost her son. Was that a bit upsetting?' Dearlove replied: 'It was probably upsetting, yes, but I cannot remember.'
Mr Wright asked: 'Did you not think about it every now and again, the tragedy of it?'
Dearlove replied: 'No, because I cannot remember it.'
The trial continues.