Belfast Telegraph

Bessbrook toddler found with fractured skull has yet to regain eyesight, court told

By Alan Erwin

A two-year-old girl whose skull fractures were allegedly inflicted in an attempt to kill her has yet to regain sight, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors said the child is out of danger but remains under close hospital supervision for blunt trauma injuries sustained at her home in Bessbrook, Co Armagh.

The update was delivered as bail was refused to a man charged with her attempted murder.

Darren Fagan, 24, denies the allegations, claiming instead that she was dropped while being carried up stairs by her mother.

A police patrol had gone to the scene on October 19 after being told that a child outside the house was not breathing.

Officers who discovered her in a "lifeless" condition performed emergency first aid until an ambulance arrived, the court heard.

Robin Steer, prosecuting, said the mother told police her daughter had been assaulted by the accused, claiming: "That b****** was punching her."

Fagan, from Clonavon Avenue in Portadown, Co Armagh, was detained inside the property. When arrested he replied: "I didn't do nothing."

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

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

She claimed he had been drinking when the alleged incident occurred after her daughter had been put to bed.

According to her account the child was unsettled and crying as she looked for medicine.

Mr Steer 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."

It was claimed that on being accused of having hit her daughter Fagan replied: "It's not what it looks like."

Detailing the extend of the girl's injuries, Mr Steer said her skull had been fractured in several places. She sustained a severe, traumatic blunt injury involving significant force, the barrister explained.

With the girl still be treated at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, Mr Steer said the risk to her life has now reduced.

But he added: "The child is still unable to see due to her injuries. She is still obviously being closely monitored in relation to that."

During police interviews 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, 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."

His barrister added: "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."

Fagan, who appeared by a prison video-link, got up and walked out of the booth before his application was decided.

But even though his lawyers said he would be prepared to live under "house arrest", bail was refused.

Mr Justice Weir ruled: "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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