Man jailed for murdering toddler stepson 50 years ago
A man who murdered his stepson almost 50 years ago in a brutal assault has been jailed for life after a Facebook picture triggered a fresh investigation by police.
David Dearlove, 71, will serve a minimum of 13 years after a jury found that he had swung 19-month-old Paul Booth by the ankles and bashed his head against a fireplace in 1968, then lied about what he had done for decades.
The attack was witnessed by Paul’s brother, Peter, who was three years old at the time, after he crept downstairs at the family home in Stockton, Teesside, to get a drink.
Peter did not initially realise that he had witnessed his brother’s murder, Teesside crown court heard. He “scarpered” upstairs, and never saw his sibling alive again.
He and his sister were briefly taken into care and when they returned to the home the toddler was not there.
Peter later told police what happened after piecing together childhood memories, but no action was taken.
That changed in 2015 when he saw a photo on Facebook of Dearlove with Paul on his knee. The picture had been posted by Dearlove’s son, David Jr, the jury heard. Incensed, Peter went to the police again with the allegation that his brother had been murdered and an investigation was launched.
On Friday a jury found Dearlove guilty of murdering Paul Booth and three counts of child cruelty against the toddler and his two siblings.
Giving evidence at his trial, Dearlove, now retired and a grandfather living in Great Yarmouth, said he had “forgotten” about the night of Paul’s death.
He stood by the story he gave detectives at the time: that he had put Paul to bed and was having a wash when he heard a scream, found the child lying on the floor and tried to give him the kiss of life.
But experts told the jury a fatal fall out of bed was extremely unlikely and the extent of his injuries indicated Paul had been physically abused.
The toddler had more than 20 bruises on his body, the court heard.
Dearlove said the bruises and burns came from accidents like a moped falling on Paul, and falling or slipping on to a hot water pipe in his bedroom.
He also denied claims by Peter and his sister, Stephanie Marron, who said Dearlove had physically abused them both.
Police investigated at the time but no action was taken and an open verdict was recorded at Paul’s inquest.
Paul’s mother, Carol Booth, who split from Dearlove in 1970 and died in 1991, never discussed Paul’s death, Peter told the court.
She told him “you didn’t see anything” and “leave it alone” when he asked her as a teenager, he told the jury. After hearing evidence in the two-week trial, the jury convicted Dearlove.
Sentencing Dearlove, Mr Justice Males told him: “You were a young and no doubt immature man. You were also a cruel man and you made the lives of those three young children a misery.”
After the verdict Paul Booth’s family said he would have celebrated his 50th birthday this year, but instead he lies in an unmarked grave that they cannot find.
In a statement released outside court, they said: “Thinking about this makes us sad, as Paul would have been a man, no doubt married and more than likely with children of his own.
“However, sadly, Paul was not given the opportunity to live his life due to the cruel and wicked actions of David Dearlove.
“This was a man who entered Paul’s life and was supposedly to act as a father figure to Paul. A man who was supposed to care for him and look after him.
“Instead of doing this he ended Paul’s life in the most violent way. The actions of David Dearlove on October 1 1968 not only physically killed Paul but also destroyed his memory.
“He was buried in an unmarked grave the location of which remains unknown and he was not spoken about for many years. However, we now believe as a family that this court case has shown everyone that Paul did live a life and that his memory will never be forgotten.
“Naturally, we are delighted as a family that justice has now been done, even if it did take 47 years to achieve it. David Dearlove is now behind bars.”
Outside court, DI Mark Dimelow said: “The inquiry has been challenging due to its historic nature. However, it has shown the value of reporting of such incidents, no matter the passage of time.
“I want to pay tribute to Paul’s family and other witnesses who provided such an emotive testimony, and I praise their bravery in having to relive events from 50 years ago.”