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Toddler suffered ‘permanent injuries’ in Bessbrook attack

The Bessbrook toddler who was critically injured in an alleged attempted murder in October last year has suffered permanent injuries, the High Court has heard.

Prosecutors at the bail hearing of Darren Fagan, the 24 year old Portadown man accused of inflicting the skull fractures on the two year old girl,  said the child is likely to develop epilepsy and cannot walk without help.

Fagan denies charges of attempting to murder the toddler, claiming she was dropped by her mother as she carried her upstairs.

He was arrested after police discovered the little girl in a “lifeless” condition at her home in Bessbrook on October 19th last year. Officers carried out CPR on the child until an ambulance crew arrived.

Prosecutor Kate McKay said the mother told police Mr Fagan had assaulted her daughter by punching her.

When he was detained inside the property he said: “I didn’t do nothing.”

Mr Fagan, of Clonavon Avenue in Portadown is said to have first met the child’s mother through Facebook and travelled to stay at her home that weekend.

According to the mother, he had been drinking when the alleged incident occurred after her daughter had been put to bed. She said that as she looked for medicine for the child, who was unsettled and crying, she heard a sudden noise like a thud and seconds later saw Fagan crouched over her daughter’s bed.

“The child wasn’t moving and there was a large lump to the side of her head,” the prosecutor told the court.

The barrister detailed the extent of girl’s injuries disclosing that she had sustained multiple fractures and bleeding on the brain.

She had to be put in a medically induced coma and spent two months being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

“I understand that she has suffered permanent injuries and it’s likely she will develop epilepsy,” Mrs McKay told the court.

“She also has difficulty moving, she can’t walk unaided.”

During police interviews Mr Fagan claimed the girl’s mother fell down the stairs while holding her daughter and said the woman had been drinking and taking drugs that day. During one interview he claimed she had been smoking a joint as she carried the child upstairs.

The prosecutor said this was a “cut-throat type defence”, and said expert evidence would be used to establish the “mechanics” of the incident.

With such a report expected to take a further eight weeks, it was conceded that any trial is unlikely to start until the autumn.

Mr Fagan’s defence team had applied for bail based of the alleged delay in the case.

Aaron Thompson defending said his client has mental health issues which had been “magnified” by being held on remand in Maghaberry Prison.

“He has to face a particular spotlight in a custody environment as that’s an abhorrent allegation to face,” Mr Thompson said.

“He adamantly denies it and is desperate to advance the case to trial to defend himself.”

Ordering the accused to remain in custody, Mr Justice Deeny said it would be “ridiculous” to suggest any rebuke of the prosecution for delays in the case and said it was a “well-known fact that doctors take longer rather than lesser time to produce their reports.”

Refusing bail, the judge said:”This is an utterly unmeritorious application for bail.

“It’s only because of the intervention of the police and ambulance staff no doubt that this child survived at all, but with very grave injuries.”