Roxie Jo-Anne Archer: Boyfriend 'beat toddler to death'

Roxie Jo-Anne Archer A post-mortem examination found Roxie Jo-Anne Archer died from head injuries

A 23-month-old girl was beaten to death by the boyfriend of her mother who had flown to New York to celebrate her 21st birthday, a jury has heard.

Ben Raftery, 21, "forcibly and repeatedly punched" Roxie Jo-Anne Archer in March 2012, Manchester Crown Court was told. He denies murder.

Roxie's mother Sophie was informed of the toddler's death as she arrived in the US.

Mr Raftery was looking after Roxie at her home in Ashton-Under-Lyne.

The court was told Roxie's mother was taken to New York by her father on 9 March as a surprise with Mr Raftery, her boyfriend of 16 months, due to look after the toddler overnight before being passed to the child's grandmother.

Mr Raftery dialled 999 at 00:30 GMT on 10 March to say he had left a stair gate open and Roxie had fallen down the stairs at the terraced house in Elizabeth Street.

She died the next day in Tameside Hospital, having suffered extensive bruising and retinal haemorrhaging.

'Strange behaviour'

Kate Blackwell QC, prosecuting, said paramedics found the child lying on a bed in an upstairs bedroom.

She told the court: "One of the paramedics thought it strange that she had been carried back up the stairs.

"Her breathing rate was slowing, she was very pale and had a blue tinge to her skin. She was in a very sick and critical condition."

Mr Raftery's behaviour at the hospital, "seemed somewhat strange," the prosecutor said.

She added: "He seemed only to be concerned about his own welfare.

"He was heard to say, 'I'm scared, they are going to do me for this'. He failed to apologise for what had apparently happened to Roxie in his care."

'Repeated punching'

Ms Blackwell said Roxie was seen by a pathologist, a neuropathologist and an eye specialist after her death, who found that "the only credible explanation" for the toddler's head and brain injuries was that she was, "forcibly and repeatedly punched and also possibly slapped across the head."

Mr Raftery moved in with Sophie Archer within weeks of meeting in November 2011 and at first appeared to bond with her daughter, the prosecutor said.

"He taught her to call him daddy," she said.

But he would also "engage in cruel behaviour towards her" such as holding her upside down by her ankle to "toughen her up" and picking up one end of a sofa by surprise as she sat on it, the court heard.

By February 2012 Roxie did not want to play with him, jurors were told.

The trial is scheduled to last up to two weeks.

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