In 1968, a 3-year-old child watched his stepfather murder his 19-month-old brother by swinging him from the ankles and smashing his head against a fireplace at the family home in Stockton, Teesside in England. Terrified, the child ran back upstairs never to see his younger brother alive again.
47 years later, Peter Booth saw a photo on Facebook of his stepfather David Dearlove holding his younger brother Paul Booth on his lap. The image once again fueled his horror and anger at the fate of his brother and that his abusive stepfather had got away with it for almost five decades. Peter Booth, now 53-years-old, went back to the police. “The image has haunted me since I was almost four years old to standing here today.” He told the court, when the case came to trial this year. “All you were ever told was Paul had died by falling out of bed and hitting his head. When I told my mum what I had seen she totally blanked me and did not want to know.”
The police reopened the investigation into Paul Booth’s death leading to a murder charge being filed against a now 71-year-old David Dearlove.
“The death of Paul Booth had been no accident, it had been as the result of a deliberate act. It had been murder.”
David Dearlove was 21-years-old in 1968 and had been living with his partner Carol Booth and her three children Paul, Peter and Stephanie for three months. While Carol was at work, Dearlove was often home alone with the children. Peter Booth would testify that David Dearlove punched and kicked him, held him underwater when he was less than 5-years-old and locked him outside of the home.
On the night Paul Booth died, David Dearlove called emergency services and told them he had found his stepson on the floor of his bedroom with a head injury and was unable to revive him. Paul was taken to hospital but died hours later. When Dearlove was interviewed by police to account for how the 19-month-old received bruising to his body and the head injury believed to have killed him, he said he was in the bathroom when he heard the child scream and found him on the floor next to his bed unresponsive. When questioned about the multiple bruises on Paul Booth’s small body, Dearlove claimed a motorbike had fallen on him weeks earlier in an innocent accident.
In 1968, the coroner recorded an open verdict at the inquest into the death of Paul Booth. David Dearlove remained in relationship with Carol Booth and they had a child together who they called David in 1970, and it was David who had posted the photo of his father and Paul Booth to Facebook, having no knowledge of the truth behind the toddler’s death. Two years after David’s birth the couple separated and David Dearlove eventually went to remarry and have a further two children.
After reopening the investigation in 2015, David Dearlove was arrested at his home in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. When interviewed he gave the same explanation, however, police this time could not reconcile his explanation with the head injuries found on Paul Booth, finding the reports of the child being swung and his head hit of a fireplace to be a more likely explanation to the cause of his injuries. Dearlove was charged with the murder of Paul Booth and multiple child cruelty offenses relating to both Peter and Stephanie Booth.
“I think moving at speed into a hard edge gives you much more force than falling out of bed that is 27 inches high on to a flat surface,” Dr. Alison Steele, a pediatrician who had studied the coroner’s report, photographs, and police reports stated during Dearlove’s trial at Teesside Crown Court in November this year, reported the Eastern Daily Press. “It is not that the other is impossible, it is just that this is the one that gives more force,” she said on which explanation was the most likely to have caused the injuries found.
Further injuries which were found on Paul Booth’s small body included burns to his hand and calf, bruising to his body and jaw and on the tops of his feet. “It was the head injury that killed the child, but what you have is a lot of other injuries, albeit superficial and not life-threatening, to other parts of the body,” Dr. Steele told the court.
After a trial lasting two-weeks, David Dearlove was found guilty of the murder of Paul Booth in 1968 and of child cruelty to his brother and sister. On 1 December 2017, he was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 13 years for the crime. “You were also a cruel man and you made the lives of those three young children a misery,” the judge told him. A man who had got away with murder for 47 years has finally been brought to justice. Outside court after the sentencing Paul Booth’s family spoke of their relief, commenting, “Justice has now been done, even if it did take 47 years to achieve it. David Dearlove is now behind bars.”