Pair charged in connection with murder of toddler in Co Tyrone refused bail
A detective investigating the murder of a two-year-old said they believe the man charged with her death attacked the toddler at a house in Co Tyrone.
Ali Jayden Doyle died from a serious head injury in hospital on August 6.
Darren John Armstrong, 32, and Jade Dempsey, 24, appeared in court in Omagh charged in connection to the death of the toddler.
Armstrong, of Ashbeg Drove in Dungannon, has been charged with Ali’s murder and perverting the court of justice.
Ali’s mother, Ms Dempsey, who is originally from Dublin, but has an address in Sycamore Drive in Dungannon, has been charged with perverting the court of justice and causing the death of a child by an unlawful act.
The pair, who appeared before Omagh Magistrates Court via video link, were refused bail.
The toddler died on August 6 at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast after she was found unconscious at a house in Park Avenue in Dungannon.
Detective Sergeant James Brannigan told the court that when emergency services arrived at the house, Ali was unresponsive.
The court heart that Armstrong told emergency services that Ali’s one-year-old brother had hit her over the head with a toy and that she had fallen against a hearth.
Detective Brannigan said: “On the way to hospital, paramedics became concerned by the account that had been given by both mother and partner about what happened the child and the way the child presented.
“They contact social services and the PSNI in relation to the two children.”
The court heard that both children had been placed on the child protection register in April of this year because Dempsey was in a relationship with Armstrong.
“They were expressly told on a number of occasions that the reason the children were on the child protection register was because Mr Armstrong was to have no access, supervised or unsupervised, to these children,” Detective Brannigan added.
“Shortly after arriving at hospital, Ali succumbed to her injuries and Mr Armstrong was arrested for her murder.”
Armstrong told police that his partner went to his home to return a bank card. He claimed that Dempsey left the house to look for a lost dummy.
“When she was retracing her steps, she said she got a phone call to say the child was hurt, and on returning to the house the paramedics were already on site,” the officer added.
“Police investigations found that that the previous night, Ms Dempsey and Mr Armstrong made arrangements for her to travel to Belfast to purchase a buggy.
“She arranged to leave the children with Mr Armstrong when she went to Belfast.
“At approximately 10.30am (Friday morning) a text communication from Jade said: “We will be there in a second, come out.”
A taxi driver told police that Ali was alert and “in good spirits”.
“At 10.45am there is a video of Ali in his house appearing healthy and responsive, sitting up, watching television,” the detective added.
“At 10.54am Darren sends (Jade) a message: ‘He is seriously melting my head, won’t stop. Crying for completely nothing.’
“Jade responds: ‘Let him out of the chair, he likes doing his own thing.’
“At 10.55am Darren replied ‘OK.’ Two minutes later Jaded replied saying: ‘Let me know if he is OK’.
“There is then an outgoing call at 11am from Darren. We believe this is Darren advising Jade that the child is injured. At 11.08 a call is made to paramedics.
“Jade returns to the house and accompanies the child to the hospital.”
A pathologist stated that the injuries caused to Ali were more likely to be non-accidental than accidental.
“There is no linear mark to indicate a fall on the hearth. The injuries are so extensive they could not say how many times the head had been impacted,” Detective Brannigan added.
“Over 25 years experience has never seen this level of injury in a child or adult from an accidental fall and there was no evidence of a previous physical trauma.
“A witness close to the house could hear a child screaming from the address and another child crying.
“What alerted her to the screaming was that the child wasn’t taking a breath, it was a continuous scream.
“This happens on two or three occasions until the screaming stopped and she believed the child had been pacified.
“There is reason to believe that the children were quite stressed at the time and for some reason he has attacked the child.
“The paramedic noticed the child was wet to touch and Mr Armstrong stated he carried water from the kitchen in his hand and threw it over her to try and get some response from her. He then changed it in interview to say he taken the child into the shower to try and revive the child.
“His account changed in the interview stating that he was in the toilet when it happened, that he didn’t actually see the incident take place.
“Jade in the interview said the same story, that she was returning a bank card and that she went out to look for the dummy.
“She was arrested in relation to those statements she gave to police in attempting to pervert the course of justice.
“We talked to social services and the interaction and there is no ambiguity the fact they knew that Mr Armstrong was to have no contact with these children, police believe that Ms Dempsey allowed the children to stay with Mr Armstrong at that point.
Armstrong’s solicitor, Patrick Fahy, said there is an “overriding presumption of innocence”.
“Without any hesitation at all, Mr Armstrong proffered a very full, thorough and detailed account as to what he believed happened inside his premises,” Mr Fahy added.
“Without any delay he contacted emergency services.”
James Strawbridge, a defence solicitor for Dempsey, said: “This young mother has no prior convictions and no outstanding cases.
“She was initially a police witness who spoke fully to police and when this discrepancy in which gave about looking for the dummy was identified, she provided clarification and explained what she was doing and the reasons for doing that.
“She only left them for a short period of time and the purpose was to go to Belfast to collect a buggy she had bought for the children.
“She hadn’t even left Dungannon, she only got to the depot when she got a call from the other accused.
“She is a victim in this case, she is a young grieving mother, she has had an horrific life with her children being removed from her care.
“She can be released and managed on bail. There will be a funeral at some stage and she needs to grieve.
“The defendant travelled to Dublin over the weekend and they had a commemoration event, however when police wanted to speak to her as a suspect and asked her to make herself available to gardai and she made herself available to them and went to the border.”
Judge Bernie Kelly refused bail and both were remanded in custody to appear before Dungannon Magistrates Court on September 1.
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