Father of baby murdered by his mother’s boyfriend after campaign of horrific abuse that she ‘encouraged’ reveals heartbreak of never getting to watch his son grow up – as pair await sentencing
- Stepfather Craig Crouch is convicted of murder and three counts of child cruelty
- Mother Gemma Barton guilty of causing or allowing the death and child cruelty
The father of a 10-month-old baby murdered by his stepfather after a horrific campaign of abuse which the child’s mother ‘encouraged’ has revealed his heartbreak as the evil couple are sentenced.
Jacob Crouch was killed by his stepfather Craig Crouch, while his mother Gemma Barton allowed the death to happen as the pair ‘teamed up’ and applauded and encouraged each other to carry out vicious assaults on the youngster.
In a victim personal statement read out in court by prosecutor Mary Prior KC during the sentencing hearing today, Jacob’s father Andrew Smith revealed he never got to meet his son. ‘All I have is a photo to remember him by,’ he said.
‘I will never be able to hug him and celebrate his achievements. I will never be able to buy him his first pint when he turns 18.
‘You have taken Jacob and all the memories we would have shared.
‘The pain will be with me for a lifetime. It will never go away. I can’t understand how or why you could inflict the injuries you did, Craig.
‘My boy has some justice now, but it will never be enough for his suffering.’
As victim impact statements were read out in court, Barton sobbed in the dock, according to Derbyshire Live.
Jacob Crouch was found dead in his cot at his Derbyshire home on the morning of December 30, 2020
Gemma Barton (pictured) , 33, was cleared of murder, an alternative charge of manslaughter and two counts of child cruelty
Craig Crouch, 39, was convicted of murder and three counts of child cruelty
In a statement, also read out by Mrs Prior, Malcolm Barton, Jacob’s maternal grandfather said: ‘He (Crouch) seemed like he was trying overly hard to impress Gemma and us, and we knew he was a liar.
‘Gemma told us that she was going to give Jacob the surname Crouch when he was born, which we thought was inappropriate. We started questioning Gemma and becoming suspicious of him.
‘We did not like Craig at all. His lies were huge and unbelievable but he did not come over to me as a violent person.
‘He (Jacob) was such a happy little lad. He was sitting on the floor and crawling about and I remember he was playing with his great-grandad’s walking stick.
‘We have lost the opportunity to see Jacob grow up, we will never see him have his 18th birthday, get married and have children of his own.’
The tragic statements come after MailOnline revealed the mother who allowed her ten-month-old son to die at the hands of her abusive partner duped neighbours into believing her baby had passed away from a tragic cot death.
Evil Gemma Barton and her partner Craig Crouch, who she had met on dating site Plenty of Fish while four months pregnant, tried to garner sympathy from neighbours by spinning them a sob story in a printed note which claimed: ‘Devastatingly, we woke up to find him no longer with us.’
Neighbours claim the twisted letter also begged unsuspecting locals not to contact them or send any cards about little Jacob’s death because ‘we are in so much pain’.
The cruel couple, who had inflicted a horrific catalogue of abuse on baby Jacob Crouch before his death aged ten months, had seemingly carefully considered and constructed a letter in a ploy to distance themselves from any blame.
Neighbours revealed how the conniving mother, 33, and stepfather, 39, had desperately tried to get themselves off the hook by pretending Jacob was a victim of cot death – when he died at their hands.
Just hours after little Jacob had passed away, the manipulative and lying duo came up with a scheme to help keep concerned locals at bay on the brand new estate in Linton, near Swadlincote, Derbyshire, where they had moved into just months before.
In an enveloped typed note, which neighbours say was delivered through letterboxes on their quiet street, they greeted neighbours they barely knew: ‘Good evening neighbours.’
The note went on to say – after many residents had been alarmed by emergency services arriving at their rented red-brick semi earlier in the day and seeing the baby put into an ambulance – that this is ‘the hardest letter I will ever have to write.’
Neighbours say they received this letter after the death of Jacob Crouch
The manipulative and lying duo came up with a scheme to help keep concerned locals at bay on the brand new estate in Linton, near Swadlincote, Derbyshire, where they had moved into just months before
The letter, on A4 paper in black ink, stated: ‘To make things easier for us over the next coming weeks we want to take this opportunity to explain why we had first response units, an ambulance and several police officers at our home.
‘Devastatingly, we have lost out beautiful 10-month-old boy. We woke up Wednesday morning at 7am to find him no longer with us. 999 was called but sadly it was too late.’
It continued: ‘We know some people that saw us regularly will ask us where our little boy is and we do not wish to relive out loss over and over.
‘Thank you for any kind thoughts you may have but we are also asking for people not to send us cards etc, we are in so much pain.
”Jacob’ will never be forgotten.
‘Thank you for your time. Kind regards Craig & Gemma.’
Jacob was found dead in his cot at on the morning of December 30, 2020 – during the Covid pandemic – and was later discovered to have 39 rib fractures, 19 visible bruises and several internal injuries.
Crouch, 39, was this week convicted of the murder of helpless Jacob in their Derbyshire home as well as three counts of child cruelty after a seven-week trial at Derby Crown Court.
Barton 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.
Both defendants – who face hefty jail sentences today remained silent as the verdicts were read out, with people in the public gallery weeping.
The couple’s next door neighbour Rebecca Bayliss said: ‘I am absolutely disgusted by what they both have done, and I cannot believe she has got off with a lighter conviction.
Many residents had been alarmed by emergency services arriving at the rented red-brick semi
Heartbreaking footage of Jacob playing, smiling and rolling on the floor has been released
Gemma Barton was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child and a third count of child cruelty
‘The mum was as bad as and even worse than the step dad. It was her duty to care for and safeguard the child she gave birth to.’
Ms Bayliss told how she had at first felt sorrow and pity for the couple, who had appeared to have lost their baby boy in a cot death.
The mother-of-five – whose grand daughter was just thee days older than Jacob – said: ‘When we found out what had really happened we were horrified.
‘We were conned into thinking they were grieving parents suffering a cot death horror, and all along they were responsible. It is absolutely shocking.’
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Ms Bayliss, 37, said: ‘As a mum and gran, I had really hoped she had nothing to do with the baby’s death and that she had maybe been manipulated and controlled.
‘But no, I got it wrong and I felt sickened to find out that she was responsible too. All of us here are in disbelief and we are absolutely disgusted.’
Ms Bayliss, who, had children aged one to 19, told how she had ‘never suspected’ any wrongdoing: until the couple’s ‘weird letter’ the same day.
She recalled: ‘We had seen all the blue lights and the emergency services and the little boy being brought out to an ambulance.
‘The mum, who I didn’t know but was my new next door neighbour, came outside the front garden and was sick.
‘It was during Covid so she wasn’t allowed to go in the ambulance with him. She threw up and then went back inside while her baby was sped off to hospital.
‘Later that day I saw her outside again and she just stood there and was smiling at her partner at the door.’
Jacob died at his home in Linton, near Swadlincote, following a ‘vicious assault’
A hysterical Barton is seen insisting ‘I haven’t done anything’ as police handcuff her
Ms Bayliss told how hours later she and all fellow neighbours received the ‘sob story’ letter.
She said: ‘The printed note, neatly put into an envelope, suddenly arrived on my doormat and all my 20-30 neighbours. Of course, I felt sorry for them, we all did, not realising what had really gone on.
‘At some point the couple were arrested and then released on bail, and we heard they had then both scarpered to be re-arrested.
‘Craig told my former partner he had split up with Gemma after the baby’s death and he was clearing out their house.’
She said: ‘No one really knew them, they very much kept themselves to themselves. He seemed to go to work, she didn’t.
‘We heard the baby crying, as kids do, but never heard anything alarming or to cause us concern.
‘The baby slept in the room adjacent to my grand-daughter’s and we heard crying through flimsy walls, but thought it was teething or bad sleep.
‘We never suspected anything criminal. When the couple were remanded in custody on suspicion on their baby’s death we were all stunned, but on reflection their note had been odd and weird.
‘What happened was unfavourable.’
She added: ‘They both deserve to be jailed for a very long time but no doubt if she goes to prison she will be allowed out in a few years and will live her life with a new identity.
‘It is so wrong.’
Another neighbour of the evil pair, who declined to be named, said: ‘They were a very, very private couple and we rarely saw them, and the baby died during the coronavirus lockdown.
‘They lived in a housing association home provided through the local council.
‘At the time it was a new build and we moved in afterwards. It was a lovely, quiet, secluded street until all this.’
The father-of-three re-iterated how the couple he only knew by face and not name had sent him, and fellow neighbours, a note ‘telling how their baby son had died in a cot death’.
He said: ‘We all got a letter saying their baby had died in a cot death and not to send any cards until they had come round at this very difficult time.
‘They had simply printed the letter off and sent to us all.’
The resident’s wife, a nurse said: ‘We suddenly felt something was not right. We heard that after their initial arrest they both did a runner before being re-arrested.
‘What they did is absolutely disgusting, and we had absolutely no idea of the abuse which carried on in a neighbour’s home and which authorities should have clamped down on.’
A previous court artist sketch of Craig Crouch, 39, (right) with the baby’s mother Gemma Barton (left)
After Barton and Crouch’s convictions, video footage was released showing the moment the couple were arrested over the baby’s death.
A hysterical Barton is seen insisting ‘I haven’t done anything’ as police handcuff her.
As a policewoman puts handcuffs on Crouch, he tells her ‘you won’t need them, I’ll come with you’.
Chilling audio was also released revealing the moment a seemingly calm Crouch tells a 999 operator Jacob is ‘stone cold’ and that he has ‘passed away’ as Barton sobs in the background.
Read more: How evil mother who met boyfriend while four months pregnant on Plenty of Fish went on to abuse and kill her 10-month-old baby during lockdown after ‘going along with her partner’s culture of cruelty in desperate bid for him not to leave her’
Crouch claims the baby was struggling to eat the night before, that they had checked on him regularly and he was OK, but that Jacob has now ‘gone’.
The operator is guiding Crouch through what he should do until help arrives, when Crouch tells her: ‘He’s gone. He’s stone cold and he’s gone stiff.’
The audio footage also reveals the moment the murderer shouts: ‘Gemma, are you sure you checked him at 5 o’clock?’
The operator asks if he feels the baby is beyond any help, to which Crouch answers ‘yes’.
Barton, who previously said he was honoured to be named on Jacob’s birth certificate, then comes on the line, crying, telling the operator ‘he was fine at 5 o’clock’.
Heartbreaking footage of Jacob playing, smiling and rolling on the floor has also been released.
Prosecutor Mary Prior KC, as she opened the horrific case in June, 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.’
Ms Prior said that Jacob died at his home in Linton, near Swadlincote, 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 that it was ‘not remotely’ possible that 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 that he would expect to see such injuries in car crash victims or those who had suffered a multi-storey fall.
Crouch, a forklift driver at JCB, said that Jacob’s injuries had ‘nothing to do with me’, stating that 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 that Jacob was dead.
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