Justice At Last As Child-Killer Is Convicted 25 Years Later

A child-killer who cheated justice for a quarter of a century after stamping a three-year-old girl to death is finally behind bars thanks to her natural father’s suspicions. Nicholas Byard had previously been questioned by police over the death of Lisa Jayne Pegg, his partner’s daughter, in 1982 but escaped prosecution because of a lack of evidence.

Lisa died in hospital from massive internal injuries in February that year after collapsing at the home she shared with Byard and her mother Julie Pegg.

Mechanic Byard, then 21, who had previously been cautioned by police for smacking the little girl, claimed she had fallen down the stairs.

He refused to co-operate with a coroner’s investigation and after an open verdict was recorded at the inquest into Lisa’s death the case was left on file.

Justice finally caught up with Byard after Lisa’s father Alan Pegg, a former soldier who had remained suspicious about the cause of her death, asked police to reopen the case in 2002 after reading up on modern-day investigations.

The medical evidence was re-examined by new experts who found Lisa’s injuries were not consistent with a fall and Byard was charged.

During his two-week trial, the court heard he had battered Lisa so violently she had injuries similar to a crash victim.

Yesterday the jury at Nottingham Crown Court convicted Byard, 46, of murdering Lisa after four hours’ deliberation.

Last night Lisa’s father Alan Pegg, who was in court to see Byard convicted, said: ‘When Lisa died nearly 25 years ago, both sides of her family were devastated.

‘Her death left a great hole in the life of everyone who knew and loved her.

‘The reason I wrote to the police about this case, leading to it being reinvestigated, was not because I wanted revenge for Lisa’s death. I did it solely for Lisa and for all her family members.

‘They did not know the real way she died or the extent of the injuries, and I knew that these being revealed would cause loved ones great distress.

‘That made the decision to start asking questions about the case so long after Lisa died very difficult.

‘But I found that I received total support from both sides of Lisa’s family and I would like to thank them all for standing by me through a very difficult time.’

Thanking the police, he added: ‘This trial has been, and will remain, a tribute to Lisa’s life, made possible by all the people who have worked so hard to obtain justice for her. She deserved justice and I believe today justice was done.’

At the time of the killing Byard lived with Lisa and her mother, who had separated from Mr Pegg in 1980, in Burbage, Leicestershire.

On February 12 1982 Lisa went limp at their home and was taken by ambulance, accompanied by Byard, to Nuneaton Manor Hospital.

There Byard told a nurse the youngster, who had multiple bruising to her lower abdomen, had fallen five feet down a flight of stairs three days earlier.

He said he didn’t call a doctor because she ‘seemed all right’, but at hospital she was unconscious, unresponsive and in need of artificial ventilation.

The jury heard that when a family friend had earlier pleaded with Byard to summon medical help he casually replied: ‘Give it an hour or so.’

He also told shocked paramedics who were called to the family home: ‘She’s only just gone like this – and she’s a mardy little bastard anyway.’

Surgery revealed Lisa Jayne’s brain was bruised and swollen, and when her condition worsened it was also found her bowel was torn at both ends.

She was transferred to Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital and placed in intensive care but died on February 15, 1982.

Giving evidence in court, Byard again insisted she simply fell down the stairs while his back was turned.

But pathologist Derek Barrowcliffe told the jury the injuries were probably caused by a grown man stamping on Lisa’s tummy.

He said it was ‘inconceivable’ that a fall was to blame, adding: ‘I cannot see how they would have been overlooked by anyone who saw the child.

‘I would not be surprised if she looked half-dead. I expect a child who had that injury to the abdomen to have collapsed of severe shock.

‘I envisage an adult kneeling or stamping on the tummy – or a punch, if one could punch with sufficient force to bring out bruises on the back of the spine.’

Byard, who has two previous convictions for assault, one of them against a policeman, was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on Thursday.

Lisa’s mother, Julie Pegg, who had two children with Byard but is now separated from him, said Lisa’s death had been ‘every mother’s worst nightmare.’

‘When the police told us they were reinvestigating Lisa’s death and that new evidence had come to light that suggested her death may not have been the accident we always believed it to be, my family and I were once again plunged into a nightmare,’ she said.

Adding that the trial of her former partner had caused her family ‘huge trauma’, she said: ‘After all these years, we now know the truth about how Lisa met her death.’

Leicestershire Police said the Director of Public Prosecutions had decided to take no further action after the original probe into the case in 1982.