Man remanded for attempted murder of Bessbrook toddler

October 27, 2014

A man accused of attempting to kill a Bessbrook toddler was remanded into custody following a court appearance in Newry on Thursday.

Darren Eamon Fagan (24) with an address in Craigavon, appeared before Banbridge Magistrates Court sitting in Newry, charged with the attempted murder of a two-year-old girl in her home in Charlemont Square East on Sunday 19th October.

The court heard how police found the toddler “in a lifeless state”, having been alerted to an “altercation” at the property.  Officers carried out CPR on the child who had sustained a fractured skull.  She remains in a critical condition in the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

The incident sent shockwaves throughout the local community, with political representatives expressing the horror of neighbours and residents at the seriousness of the alleged assault.

The accused is not the father of the injured child but is believed to have been in a relationship with her mother, with the pair having met just weeks previously.

Fegan denies the charge of assaulting the little girl and claimed during eight interviews with police that the child’s mother fell down the stairs while holding her.

During Thursday’s court hearing, the senior officer in the case, Detective Inspector Keith Gawley, accused him of lying and changing his story a number of times during police questioning.

Detective Gawley told the court that a neurology expert consulted by police had confirmed that the child’s skull was so badly fractured it would suggest “a blunt trauma injury”.

It is understood that more than twenty of the child’s relatives packed into the public gallery as a prosecutor relayed a harrowing account of the scene which met police when they arrived at a house on the evening in question..

The court heard that police on patrol near the scene of the incident were stopped and told that a child was not breathing so they went to the street where they discovered a woman holding a young child and noticed that the child “appeared lifeless”.  The officer said the woman told police that the accused had punched the child.

When officers entered the property, the defendant was present with “cut and bruised knuckles”.  As he was being placed under arrest, Fegan replied: “I did not do nothing”.

Police carried out eight interviews with the defendant since his arrest on the Sunday evening, during which he denied causing the toddler’s injuries and instead claimed the mother had been drinking and taking drugs all day and had fallen from the fifth stair of the house with the child in her arms.

Detective Inspector Gawley said police put the account of the alleged fall to medics in the Royal Victoria Hospital but a neurosurgeon advised that the child’s injury “would not be in keeping with the fall”.

“He changed his story throughout the process. Police do not believe the account that he has given at all,” Detective Gawley said.

Defence barrister Kevin Magill said his client told police that he did not inflict the injuries on the toddler and added that the only direct evidence against Mr Fagan was the child’s mother.  Police refuted this claim however saying there was medical evidence to support the attempted murder charge.

Mr Magill added: “She alleges that she heard something happen as opposed to see it happen”.

He said abrasions to his client’s hand occurred when he fell against a wall while repairing a satellite dish and could not have been sustained during the course of the alleged assault.

The lawyer also revealed that after police interviewed the defendant they had concerns about his medical condition. He was taken to hospital and examined and on returning to the police station for interview, “it was deemed appropriate to have him properly medicated and have an appropriate adult with him”.

District Judge Paul Copeland remanded the accused in custody until November 19th.  There was no application for bail.