Northern Ireland

Bessbrook attack: Injured toddler 'has not regained sight'

The case was heard in the High Court in Belfast
Image caption Members of the girl's family were in the High Court in Belfast to hear Mr Fagan's failed bid to be released

A toddler who was critically injured in an alleged murder bid in County Armagh last month has not regained her sight, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

The two-year-old girl sustained a fractured skull in an attack at her home in Bessbrook on 19 October.

The child remains in hospital and details her of condition were outlined in court as the man accused of her attempted murder was refused bail.

Darren Eamon Fagan, 24, from Clonavon Avenue, Portadown, denies the charge.

He has claimed that the child was dropped while being carried up stairs by her mother.

'Out of danger'

Members of the girl's family were in court to hear his failed bid to be released.

During Wednesday's bail hearing, prosecutors told the court the child's life is out of danger but that she remains under close hospital supervision for blunt trauma injuries sustained in the attack.

Police officers discovered the toddler in a "lifeless" condition at the her family home on 19 October, after they responded to report that a child outside the house was not breathing.

The girl was then taken to hospital by ambulance.

The toddler's mother told police at the scene that Mr Fagan had been "punching" the child, according to the prosecution.

Mr Fegan denied attacking the toddler when he was arrested inside the house.

The accused was said to have first met the girl's mother through Facebook and travelled to stay at her home in Bessbrook that weekend.

'Sudden noise'

She claimed he had been drinking alcohol and attacked her daughter after the child had been put to bed.

According to the mother's account, the child was crying and Mr Fegan assaulted the toddler while she was downstairs looking for medicine.

The prosecution lawyer told the court: "She described being five stairs from the top of the flight of stairs, hearing a sudden noise described as a thud, and at that point the child stopped crying.

"She came into the room about two seconds after hearing the thud and says the applicant was standing crouched over her bed.

"The child wasn't moving and there was a large lump to the side of her head," the lawyer added.

The prosecution said the child's skull had been fractured in several places and she is still being treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

The court heard the girl had sustained a severe, traumatic blunt injury involving significant force.

"The child is still unable to see due to her injuries. She is still obviously being closely monitored in relation to that," the prosecution lawyer added.

'Taking drugs'

During police interviews, Mr Fagan claimed that the girl's mother fell from the stairs while holding her daughter.

He also alleged that the woman had been drinking and taking drugs that day.

Although the prosecution argued that he changed his account, Mr Fegan's defence counsel insisted it was a case of his word against the mother's.

"Throughout his interviews he's consistent that she was taking the child up the stairs and she dropped the child at a time when she was under the influence of alcohol and drugs," the defence lawyer said.

"He finds the suggestion of assaulting a child repugnant and he wishes he me to say that. This is a case where he protests his innocence," he added.

Refusing bail, the judge said. "It seems to me there's a well-developed concern that if admitted to bail he wouldn't comply with conditions."

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