Jacob Crouch: Stepfather guilty of murdering 10-month-old baby – as mother convicted of allowing his death

A stepfather has been found guilty of murdering a 10-month-old baby boy.

Warning: This article contains details of a graphic nature

Jacob Crouch was born healthy on 17 February 2020 and died alone in his cot on 30 December 2020 at his home in Linton, near Swadlincote.

He was later discovered to have 39 rib fractures, 19 visible bruises and several internal injuries.

His stepfather Craig Crouch, 39, was convicted of murder and three counts of child cruelty after the jury deliberated for four days following a seven-week trial at Derby Crown Court.

The boy’s mother Gemma Barton, 33, was cleared of murder, an alternative charge of manslaughter, and two counts of child cruelty, but was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child and a third count of child cruelty.

Craig Crouch and Gemma Barton

Image: Craig Crouch and Gemma Barton

Opening the case in June, prosecutor Mary Prior KC said: “Neither sought medical help for Jacob at any stage for the pain and suffering caused when his bones were broken or in the few days that followed.”

She added: “Neither got Jacob out of what must have been a life with episodes of significant pain and suffering.

“Jacob was not given the care that as a baby he needed and deserved.”

A ‘vicious assault’

Mrs Prior said Jacob died following a “vicious assault” which was the culmination of regular abuse within a “culture of cruelty”.

Dr Sarah Dixon, a consultant paediatrician, told the court Jacob suffered “repeated physical abuse” in the weeks, days and hours prior to his death and it was “not remotely” possible the injuries could have been self-inflicted.

They included a traumatic bowel perforation which led to a fatal infection, which forensic pathologist Dr Michael Biggs said could only have been sustained through blunt force trauma such as a punch, kick or stamp.

He also said he would expect to see such injuries in car crash victims or those who had suffered a multi-storey fall.

While Dr Biggs said Jacob’s injuries would have left him “systematically unwell” in the time before his death, Crouch claimed in a 999 call Jacob was “fine” just two hours before he was pronounced dead by paramedics.

Jacob Crouch suffered 'horrendous abuse'

Image: Jacob Crouch died following a ‘vicious assault’

‘It was not me so that leaves Craig’

Giving evidence, Crouch, a forklift driver at JCB, said Jacob’s injuries had “nothing to do with me”, stating he “didn’t see anything” and “didn’t see anyone do anything to hurt” his stepson.

Barton also denied ever harming her son, and when asked who could have inflicted the injuries, said: “It was not me so that leaves Craig.”

She claimed her son was her “bundle of joy” and said it felt like her “whole world had just ended” when she was awoken by Crouch screaming Jacob was dead.

In text messages from June 2020, Crouch told Barton she needed to be “more regimental” with Jacob to “not let this take over us”, claiming he was “starting to get really pissed off with him” in a later text.

Text messages describing baby as the ‘devil’

Other messages revealed the pair at one stage referred to Jacob as the “devil”.

In September, when Barton told Crouch she was bathing Jacob, he replied “3 foot deep, just hot water and some bleach xxxx”, a comment he later labelled in a police interview as “banter”.

After the pair were arrested on 5 January 2021, they resumed their relationship despite their bail conditions saying they should not contact each other.

This, Mrs Prior said, was evidence “what mattered to them was their love affair and their love story”.

Crouch and Barton will be sentenced at the same court on Friday.

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