Jacob Crouch: Stepfather found guilty of murder of 10-month-old baby
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The stepfather of a 10-month-old baby has been found guilty of his murder.
Craig Crouch carried out the systematic abuse of Jacob Crouch over several months – before his death in December 2020.
Jacob’s mother, Gemma Barton, was found guilty of causing or allowing his death.
The jury at Derby Crown Court heard how Jacob would have suffered serious pain in the hours leading up to his death, something that would have been clear to the couple.
Tragically, the court heard that once the fatal injury had been inflicted, had they taken him for immediate medical help, Jacob would likely have survived the peritonitis that eventually caused his death.
A specialist paediatrician told the court that the condition, which is caused by a rupturing of the bowel, had been caused by a kick, stamp, or punch with so much force the injuries were similar to those suffered by victims of serious road traffic collisions.
Crouch and Barton’s lies began as soon as they rang 999 after, they said, they had found Jacob unresponsive in his cot at around 7am on December 30 2020.
When paramedics arrived at the couple’s home in Foxley Close, Linton, Swadlincote, they found that Jacob had clear bruising and there were signs of rigor mortis – suggesting he had been dead for much longer than the couple claimed.
East Midlands Ambulance Service rang the force to report their concerns and officers were dispatched to the scene.
Jacob’s body was taken to the Royal Derby Hospital where doctors quizzed the parents about how their baby had been in the days leading up to his death.
They painted a picture of a child who, other than being unwilling to take a bottle the evening before he died, was otherwise fine.
In reality, Jacob would have been dead or dying before he was checked on at 5am by Barton.
Further tests and procedures were undertaken to find out how Jacob died – with the results clear that his death was no accident.
As well as being covered in bruises Jacob was found to have suffered up to 41 rib fractures which had been caused during at least 5 separate assaults. Some of these had been caused in the last hours of Jacob’s life, while others had occurred months before.
These fractures were found to have been caused by squeezing by adult hands – and there was evidence found that healed fractures had been re-broken by further assaults.
While the fractures would have left Jacob in serious pain – it was another injury caused by an assault that actually caused his death.
The post-mortem found that Jacob had died from peritonitis. The condition is caused by a rupturing of the bowel – an injury that had been caused by a kick, stamp or punch.
With the medical evidence clear that Jacob had been assaulted and that he had not died from natural causes Barton and Crouch were arrested on March 29 2022.
With the pair in custody officers were able to seize their mobile phones – which gave fresh insight into their inhumane treatment of Jacob.
Text messages between the pair saw them call Jacob the “devil”, joked about bathing him in bleach and detailed how they would hit him if he cried for “no reason”.
Officers also found audio notes from Crouch to Barton explaining his warped view on parenting and how there should be a defined hierarchy in the family – with the parents at the top.
Following the pair being charged with Jacob’s murder they both denied any involvement in his death and continued to do so throughout the trial.
But the jury did not believe their story and after four full days of deliberation returned a guilty verdict of murder on Craig Crouch, 39, of Donisthorpe Lane, Moira, Swadlincote and found that Gemma Barton, 33, of Ray Street, Heanor, was guilty of causing or allowing Jacob's death.
The pair were remanded to prison and will be sentenced at Derby Crown Court on Friday (4 August).
Detective Inspector Paul Bullock said: “Jacob Crouch was born into a culture of cruelty, where both of the people who he should have been able to trust above any other allowed him to be subjected to assault after assault.
“Heartbreakingly, for much of Jacob’s short life, he would have been in significant pain as a result of the serious, repeated assaults.
“It is clear from the evidence found on Barton and Crouch’s phones, through text messages, videos, and audio recordings, that they were equally responsible for the culture of cruelty that was inflicted on baby Jacob.
“As a father I cannot comprehend what happened in that house – and my thoughts remain with Jacob’s wider family who have been left devastated by his death.
“I hope that today’s verdict brings with it a degree of closure for them and that it begins the process of them being able to grieve for Jacob and remember the happier times with a much-loved child.”