A man who claims he was “forced” to squirt acid on a three-year-old boy has told a jury he felt “terrible” when he found out the victim was burned.
The youngster, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered serious injuries to his face and arm at the Home Bargains store in Worcester on July 21 last year.
A 40-year-old man, the boy’s father, has denied a charge of conspiring to spray sulphuric acid on the boy between June 1 and July 22, 2018 with intent to harm.
He is on trial at Worcester Crown Court accused of plotting the attack alongside a woman and five other men, including Adam Cech.
Cech, who has accepted he squirted the boy, told the jury on Wednesday he did not know it was acid and discovered that fact only when he saw reports on the news later that day.
The father-of-two has also claimed another of the co-accused, Norbert Pulko, “forced” a bottle containing the acid into his hand after threatening him with a “gun”, moments before the shop attack.
Cech, when asked by his barrister how he felt on hearing he had burned the child, replied: “Terrible.”
He claimed Pulko had been driving him to London when he came across a news report of the attack.
“I asked him ‘what was in that bottle – how was it possible that I have harmed this boy,'” Cech added.
The 27-year-old, of Farnham Road, Birmingham, has pleaded not guilty to being part of the conspiracy, alongside co-accused Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham, and Pulko, 22, of Sutherland Road, London.
Martina Badiova, 22, of Newcombe Road, Handsworth, Birmingham; Jabar Paktia, 42, of Newhampton Road, Wolverhampton, and Saied Hussini, of Wrottesley Road, London, have also denied the same charge.
Jurors have previously heard the injured child repeatedly screamed “I hurt” after being struck, at about 2.16pm.
The Crown has alleged the father “enlisted others” to attack the youngster in a bid to win a custody battle, after his wife walked out on him with the children in 2016.
It is also alleged an “aborted” attempt was carried out on July 13, eight days before the shop attack.
Jurors have already heard a claim, made through Hussini’s barrister, that the boy’s father had been willing to pay up to £3,000 for “private investigators” to follow his wife and children.
On the second day of his evidence, Cech claimed he was “scared” of going to the police about Pulko after an incident at the man’s London home involving a “gun”.
Cech said: “He was holding the gun, and while he was talking, he was waving it about.”
The jury have seen a BB gun, found by police in Pulko’s bedroom, which Cech has claimed was also used to threaten him into carrying out the attack moments before it happened.
Following his arrest, however, Cech gave a no comment interview to police.
His barrister Andrew Copeland asked: “Why didn’t you tell the police then?”
Cech replied: “I was scared, frightened, and it was the first time I’ve ever been in a police station.”
He was also asked to bear his left wrist in court in order to show he was not an alleged guinea-pig to prove the acid’s strength ahead of the attack.
Mr Copeland showed an image of a man’s left forearm, with a red acid-type injury, which had been recovered from Hussini’s mobile phone.
However, when Cech rolled back his sleeve, it showed a heavily tattooed limb – unlike the one in the photograph.
Earlier this week, during the father’s evidence, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC claimed he had been “handing over acid” in a pub car park to a man alleged to be Pulko just hours before the attack.
The Crown’s barrister asked him: “I suggest you are an arrogant and selfish man, aren’t you?
“You planned this acid attack on your three-year-old son.”
The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “This is not the truth, I would never do this.”
The trial continues.