May 2022

Evil child killer sentenced to life

An evil child killer who horrifically abused a toddler and left him to bleed to death in their family home has been locked up for life.

Convicted drug dealer Nathaniel Pope will spend a minimum of 24 years behind bars for callously murdering Kemarni Watson Darby, who was just three years old when he died.

The monster looked on emotionless as his fate was sealed for beating to death the child – who ‘never laughed’ and could barely string sentences together.

His shocking abuse saw him attack the helpless child in the dirty and cramped two-bed Black Country flat where he lived with the boy’s mum and his then-girlfriend Alicia Watson

The horrendous mistreatment saw him assault Kemarni because he was ‘naughty’ and he even used snapped electrical cables to force the door to one room shut, locking Kemarni inside.

Pope was under the influence of cannabis when he cruelly delivered the fatal blow which split the boy’s abdomen when he was alone with the tot at their West Bromwich home

The ‘vicious’ forceful assault’ caused a huge internal bleed so severe that Kemarni would have been unable to climb stairs or even walk.

Friends and family shook their head and stormed out of the public gallery as ‘strict’ mum Watson was jailed for 11 years for her part in Kemarni’s death.

Sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court today, Mrs Justice Tipples said: “This is a particularly distressing and tragic case. You, Pope, brutally assaulted Kemarni in the sitting room of his own home, and knowing he was in extreme distress and pain, you left him to bleed to death on the sofa.”

Kemarni was left with 30 external injuries – including rib fractures and ‘car crash-like’ wounds. Watson, 31, of Radnor Road, Handsworth, and Pope, 32, of Evans Street, Wolverhampton, denied all charges faced.

Pope was convicted of murder by a jury last month. Watson – who stayed in a relationship with Pope after her son’s death – was acquitted of murdering her son but was convicted of causing or allowing his death.

The pair were also convicted of multiple child cruelty counts following a trial which started in December and saw evidence presented to jurors over 10 weeks.

Paramedics rushed to the flat and discovered Kemarni ‘lifeless’ after Watson raised the alarm with the emergency services.

She had left her son with boyfriend Pope but returned home to find the child collapsed on the sofa, with one arm hanging off.

Just hours earlier, Watson had taken her son to Parsonage Street walk-in centre, in West Bromwich where he was diagnosed with a stomach bug.

He had been rushed in for an assessment after vomiting but a nurse said she spotted ‘nothing out of the ordinary’.

She then took him to a McDonalds in All Saints Way, with CCTV footage capturing the pair holding hands as they walked into the eatery.

Footage also captured the mum – who regularly slapped her son to discipline him – leaving the fast-food spot with Kemarni before heading home.

Pathologists told jurors it was extremely likely Kemarni suffered fatal injuries when he returned home after the trip to the medical centre.

Loved ones had spotted bruising, cuts and scratches on ‘wholly defenceless’ Kemarni but Watson would lie about the cause of his injuries – and once said he ‘walked into a door’.

Kemarni also turned up at nursery with a split lip on two occasions but staff were told the injuries were caused by ‘clumsy play’.

Nursery staff told how Kemarni had ‘some behavioural issues’, with one member of staff revealing he had called her a ‘f****** b****’.

Kemarni barely laughed and ‘unusually’ never cried during his twice-weekly sessions at Walsall ’s Catherine House nursery.

The boy struggled to interact with other children and could not even string sentences together, speaking only two or three words at a time.

He would also ‘scratch’ other children on the face and push them – although these incidents were not a ‘major concern’ for staff.

Prosecutors revealed how the boy suffered ‘sustained’ and ‘extremely painful’ beatings in the months leading up to his death – they believe on at least five occasions.

His injuries would have required force similar to that caused by a road traffic collision or being stamped on with a ‘shod foot’.

The ‘plethora’ of severe injuries including multiple fractures to his rib cage, as well as wounds to his liver and colon.

Bruising was uncovered on his lungs, head, mouth, neck, arms, chest, abdomen, back and legs.

The ‘catalogue’ of injuries also included scars to the eyes, cheeks, knees and limbs, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said.

Bruising at the top of Kemarni’s scalp was ‘quite unusual’ as it would be difficult to fall on that part of the head accidentally.

Signs of injuries consistent with gripping were also discovered on the boy’s abdomen and arm.

Both the defendants gave evidence during their trial. Pope told jurors he had been ‘wrongly accused’ of murdering young Kemarni and claimed there was nothing he could have done to ‘save’ the boy.

He denied he ‘lost it’ and beat the youngster to ‘shut him up’ in the family’s home on the day of Kemarni’s death.

Watson said she loved her son and insisted she never harmed the toddler or inflicted any ‘horrific’ injuries upon him.

Instead, she branded Pope a ‘cold-hearted liar’ and blamed him for fatally injuring the tot.

The Sandwell Children’s Safeguarding Partnership said ‘no safeguarding concerns’ were identified following Kemarni’s murder.

It launched a review into the tot’s death after he died but an initial report found social services had no involvement with the family. An updated serious case review is yet to be published.

April 2022

Convicted drug dealer, 32, is found guilty of murdering his girlfriend’s three-year-old son

A man has been found guilty of murdering his partner’s three-year-old son, after inflicting more than 20 rib fractures, during weeks of ‘horrendous’ beatings, including some using force similar to a car crash.

Convicted drug dealer 32-year-old Nathaniel Pope was found unanimously guilty of murder by a Birmingham Crown Court jury on Tuesday.

The jury heard evidence of how Kemarni Watson Darby’s fragile body, which had 34 separate areas of external injuries, had acted as a ‘silent witness’ to his crime and that he had endured weeks of ‘horrendous’ abuse prior to his death.

Kemarni’s mother, 30-year-old Alicia Watson, was cleared of murdering her son but found guilty of causing or allowing the child’s death.

Each was also found guilty of multiple child cruelty counts.

Mrs Justice Tipples praised the ‘extremely impressive’ jury for their ‘dedication and commitment’ throughout the 65-day trial, as one juror openly wept, following delivery of the verdicts.

The judge herself became emotional as she further ordered the 10-member panel of five men and five women to be discharged from future jury service for life due to the ‘awful nature of the facts’ they had had to consider over 20 weeks.

The four-month trial was told Watson and Pope, who blamed each other from the witness box, were ‘partners in crime’ and continued to live together for several months after Kemarni’s death.

Jurors found the youngster died from abdominal injuries on the afternoon of June 5, 2018, after his ribcage was ‘crushed’ at the couple’s two-bedroom flat in West Bromwich, inflicted by Pope.

But also among the fatal injuries to Kemarni’s body were four rib fractures believed by pathologists to have been caused up to four weeks before he was killed at his home in West Bromwich.

Pope, who was jailed for four months in 2011 for a brutal attack on a young mother on a London bus, claimed in court that he had not seen or heard the fatal attack on Kemarni.

The former warehouse worker has previous convictions for burglary and possession of heroin with intent to supply, and was found with a ‘rock’ of crack cocaine hidden in his buttocks when he was arrested for murder in March 2021.

Watson, said to have a ‘zero to 100’ temper, became angry while giving evidence, blaming Pope and claiming she only lived with him after her son’s death because she doubted the medical evidence.

During the trial, it emerged she had bought cannabis and spent money on driving lessons as Kemarni lost his nursery place due to lack of funds.

Expert witnesses said the youngster was already in pain from serious injuries when, hours before he was beaten to death, he was taken by Watson to a walk-in health centre, where she told a nurse her son was being sick, had a high temperature and was not eating.

Notes from the visit suggested that Kemarni, who was given medicine for a suspected stomach bug, had been vomiting for five days and was ‘not his usual self’.

Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said: ‘Post-mortem examinations revealed that Kemarni had sustained horrendous injuries both that day and on earlier occasions.

‘The injuries were evident both externally and internally when a post-mortem examination was conducted.

‘Amongst those injuries were multiple fractures to his skeleton, some of which would have required force akin to a road traffic accident or stamping.

‘Both recent and non-recent injuries were found. There were multiple fractures to both the left and right side of his ribcage which could be dated historically into the hours and weeks preceding his death.

‘At least four separate events caused the fractures. They included corner fractures, fracture lines, partial fractures and a complete transverse fracture.’

Internal bruising and lacerations were also described as extensive, including injuries to Kemarni’s liver and colon.

Mr Badenoch added: ‘It was a mesenteric laceration which ultimately killed him as his abdominal internal structures were forced against his spine with force.

‘In short, he died from abdominal trauma which was most likely caused by a blow.’

During the trial, it emerged that an electrical wire had been used to ‘lock’ a bedroom door at the flat.

Jurors were also shown a photograph of Kemarni with an injury to his right eye, as well as one showing him eating near a clump of his own hair, which Watson claimed he had cut off.

After the jury heard evidence from both defendants, family members, a nursery teacher and a social worker, Mr Badenoch used his closing speech to describe the murder as the brutal killing of an utterly defenceless victim.

He told the court: ‘The prosecution case is that Kemarni suffered a catalogue of horrendous injuries for weeks in advance of his death – caused by levels of extreme force associated with a car crash.

‘He was also marked and scarred in dozens of separate areas, including grip injuries where he had been manhandled in his young life, as he was learning to walk and speak.

‘That was the life of Kemarni in his final weeks – when his mother spent the £25 that was needed for his ongoing nursery attendance on driving lessons and drugs.’

Watson and Pope had provided silence and lies to the court and refused to say what they had done to a child who was ‘full of personality’, Mr Badenoch said.

The prosecutor added the couple had given no explanation for injuries found on Kemarni’s head, mouth, neck, arms, chest, abdomen, back and legs, other than accidents involving prams and doorframes.

Mr Badenoch said of Kemarni: ‘Although he lost his life in the most horrendous way, he had a voice in this courtroom.

‘He was also a witness in this courtroom, the most important witness – the silent witness.

‘It is Kemarni’s body that spoke the loudest, with the most clarity, in this courtroom.

‘His squeezed, battered and lifeless, oxygen-starved body cannot lie. This is something which his mother and Nathaniel Pope have summarily sought to discredit, shift around and silence.’

Pope, of Wolverhampton, and Watson, of Handsworth, Birmingham, were also convicted of child cruelty to Kemarni between May 1 and June 5 2018, relating to the infliction of rib fractures and an abdominal injury prior to the fatal injury.

They were also separately convicted of two further counts of child cruelty in relation to other children.

Pope and Watson will be sentenced on May 23.