Northern Ireland

Bessbrook toddler: Man remanded on attempted murder charge

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Media captionDarren Eamon Fagan denies attempting to murder the child

A 24-year-old man has been remanded in custody charged with the attempted murder of a two-year-old child in County Armagh.

The child was discovered in a "lifeless" condition outside her home in Bessbrook on Sunday. Police officers who had been in the area gave CPR.

The girl had suffered a fractured skull and remains in a critical condition in hospital.

Darren Eamon Fagan, from Clonavon Avenue, Portadown, denies the charge.

Banbridge Magistrates Court, sitting in Newry, heard that police on patrol in Bessbrook were told that a child was not breathing, so they went to the scene.

"They saw a female on the street holding a young child and noticed that it appeared lifeless. Police carried out CPR," an officer told the court.

The court heard that the woman told police the accused had assaulted the child.

When officers entered a property, they saw the defendant with cut and bruised knuckles.

When they arrested him, he replied: "I did not do nothing."

'Changed his story'

Mr Fagan claimed, during eight interviews with police, that the child's mother fell from the fifth stair at a house while holding the girl.

He claimed the child's mother had been drinking and taking drugs all day.

Det Insp Keith Gawley said that he had consulted a neurology expert.

He said: "The skull was so badly fractured that it would be a blunt trauma injury and that was all that he was prepared to say at that time."

Mr Gawley said police went to the the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast where the toddler is being treated, on Wednesday morning, and put the account that the accused had given to medical staff.

The officer told the court: "The neurosurgeon said that injury would not be in keeping with the fall."

Mr Gawley said police had established that the accused could not have physically seen the mother falling.

"He changed his story throughout the process. Police do not believe the account that he has given at all."

The stairs have been forensically examined, he said, and there were no obvious marks from a fall.

'Consumed alcohol'

He added: "He has told lies to police, he told lies to police that the child fell and changed his story on a number of occasions."

A defence barrister said his client told police that it was not he who inflicted the injuries.

The lawyer added: "The only direct evidence against him is the mother of the child."

Police said there was medical evidence as well.

The barrister said: "She alleges that she heard something happen, as opposed to see it happen.

"He has given an account, which is that the mother consumed alcohol and drugs and that she took the child up the stairs and dropped the child on the stairs and said that she bumped her head on the stairs and came to land on the floor."

He said abrasions to his client's hand could not have been sustained during an alleged assault but happened when he fell against a wall while fixing a satellite dish.

The barrister said after police interviewed the accused, they had concerns about his medical condition, so he was examined in hospital.

Mr Fagan's barrister said it was subsequently deemed appropriate that his client should be medicated and accompanied by an appropriate adult at the police station.

He was remanded in custody until 19 November.