Stepfather convicted of murdering toddler in 1968

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A stepfather who swung a toddler by the ankles and bashed his head against a fireplace then lied about it for almost 50 years has been convicted of murder.

David Dearlove was seen attacking 19-month-old Paul Booth in 1968 by the little boy's brother Peter, then aged just three, when he crept downstairs for a drink.

The 71-year-old denied killing the toddler at the family home in Haverton Hill, Stockton, telling a jury at Teesside Crown Court that the boy had suffered the fatal head injury by falling out of bed.

There was no visible reaction from the defendant when the guilty verdict was delivered, but there were gasps from the public gallery where members of his family were sitting.

Richard Wright QC, prosecuting, told the court that a mandatory life sentence would follow, with a minimum jail term to be set.

He said aggravating factors were the vulnerability of the victim, the infliction of physical suffering and the fact the stepfather was in a position of trust.

Tim Roberts QC, defending, said the judge should sentence on the basis there was no intention to kill.

He said: "We do submit that 50 years of blameless character since 1968 is a matter to which the court can, in these particular circumstances, attach considerable weight."

Mr Justice Males said he would sentence Dearlove, who was also convicted of three child cruelty charges, later on Friday.

Paul died in hospital on the same night Peter witnessed him being attacked. He never regained consciousness after suffering a fractured skull and died within four hours.

A police inquiry was launched at the time after bruises and burns were found on the boy, but Dearlove was never prosecuted.

That changed in 2015 when Peter Booth, incensed after seeing a photo on Facebook of his little brother sitting on Dearlove's knee, went to the police.

Dearlove was 21 when he moved in with Carol Booth, now deceased, and her three children, and told the jury he liked them but did not love them.

The couple split in 1970 and he never saw Peter again until Mr Booth faced him in court and told the jury what he saw.

Dearlove, who had no previous convictions, moved to London after his split with Mrs Booth, and started a new life. He married, had two daughters and is now a grandfather.