June 2017

Thug, 22, who battered his partner’s two-year-old son then urged her not to dial 999 as he lay dying is jailed for 18 years for the boy’s murder

A 22-year-old has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for murdering his partner’s two-year-old son.

Joseph Eke of Weymouth punched and kicked Harry House on a number of occasions before murdering him with ‘significant, severe and non-accidental’ blows at his home in Broadmayne, Dorset, while his mother, Lauren O’Neill, visited the shops to buy ingredients so the pair could bake a cake.

When she returned and discovered her son Harry dying, Eke pretended the boy was ill before urging her not to call 999.

Even when the child was rushed to hospital, Ms O’Neill was so oblivious of what had taken place that she asked her son: ‘What about the cake we are baking, Harry?’

A post-mortem found he suffered a brain haemorrhage, multiple bruises and abrasions to his body as well as a ‘pancreas which had split in two’ during the beating, which took place on May 26 last year. 

Sentencing him, the judge, Mrs Justice May, told Eke: ‘You wilfully, fatally, failed Harry when you assaulted him, taking his life.’

She added that Miss O’Neill had been ‘in denial’ about the abuse carried out by Eke in the last days of Harry’s life which had left him covered in bruises and suffering from broken ribs which was the subject of the GBH charge.

She said: ‘No-one will ever know the full extent of your mistreatment of Harry.’ 

In a statement read to the court, Harry’s mother Lauren O’Neill said of the defendant: ‘He has ruined so many people’s lives and not shown an ounce of remorse.

‘We are truly heart-broken, he was such a special boy.’ 

Winchester Crown Court heard Eke launched a ‘pattern’ of abuse against Harry in the months before his death while Lauren visited shops in Broadmayne, Dorset.

Eke had denied murder but jurors found him guilty following a three-week trial. He was cleared of of separate charges of ABH and unlawful wounding.

Prosecutor Adam Feest said Eke ‘demonstrated at best a callous and complete disregard to the safety and wellbeing of a two-year-old while he was in his care.’

He added: ‘The nature of these injuries were such that he would have gone into rapid and quick decline from the time he was violently attacked.

‘His attacker would have been aware it was obvious he needed urgent care.

‘While survival was a possibility this would have been unlikely and only possible with immediate care. Harry was dying from the time he was attacked.

‘It’s only this defendant who could have caused his death. A pattern of physical abuse started to emerge and increased in intensity towards his death.

‘Landing violent blows on such a small child with such force would have made it obvious he was dying.’

Speaking about the cause of death, he said: ‘It could have been kicks, punches, or a series of combinations of both, it’s hard for medical experts to say.’

Mr Feets QC also said: ‘Lauren told Harry about her plans about baking a cake and he was very excited, he was jumping up and down.

‘She told him to tidy his building blocks on his floor and went downstairs. That was the last time she saw her son uninjured.’

Ms O’Neill told the court how her son went ‘all floppy’ in her arms after Eke told her that 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.’

Eke, of Upwey, Weymouth, told the court he loved Harry and would never harm a child.

A spokeswoman from children’s charity NSPCC previously condemned Eke’s ‘appalling’ attack.

She said: ‘Harry suffered appalling cruelty at the hands of someone who should have protected him from harm. He has been robbed of the chance to live a long and happy life.

‘Eke was fully responsible for Harry’s brutal and shocking death and it is right that he is now facing the consequences of his actions.

‘Babies and young children are entirely dependent on those who care for them and we all have a duty to look out for their welfare.’