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Man jailed for at least 13 years for murdering toddler stepson in 1968

David Dearlove was convicted after evidence from the victim’s older brother who was just three at the time he saw the attack.

A stepfather who was convicted of murdering a toddler almost 50 years after a Facebook photograph sparked a new inquiry has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 13 years.

David Dearlove, 71, swung 19-month-old Paul Booth by the ankles and bashed his head against a fireplace in 1968, then lied about what he had done for decades, claiming the little boy fell out of bed.

His murderous attack had been witnessed by Paul’s brother, Peter, who was three years old at the time, after he crept downstairs at the family home in Haverton Hill, Stockton, Teesside, to get a drink.

A police photo of Paul Booth taken in September 1968 showing bruising, months before he died (Cleveland Police/PA)

Mr Booth had told police what happened after piecing together childhood memories, but no action was taken.

That changed in 2015 when, incensed by seeing a black-and-white photo of Dearlove with Paul on his knee on Facebook, Mr Booth went to the police again with the allegation that his brother was murdered, and an investigation was launched.

Dearlove, now a retired grandfather and married with two daughters, was arrested at his home in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

A jury deliberated for three days before unanimously finding him guilty of murder and child cruelty offences against Paul, Peter and their sister, Stephanie.

Paul's brother Peter went to police after seeing a photo on Facebook of his little brother sitting on Dearlove's knee (Cleveland Police/PA)

Teesside Crown Court heard that Dearlove was 21 when he moved in with Carol Booth, a single mother, and her three young children.

A month before Paul was killed, nursery staff were concerned about bruises on his body and the authorities investigated, with photos taken of the little boy.

Those black-and-white images of the intensely sad-looking toddler were used in court to convict Dearlove 49 years on.

At the time, the ICI worker claimed a motorbike had fallen on the youngster.

On October 1 1968, Dearlove lashed out again, causing a fatal brain injury by bashing his head.

David Dearlove claimed Paul had fallen out of bed (Cleveland Police/PA)

Initially, in 2015, he told police Paul had suddenly collapsed in a chair downstairs, but, at the time and during the trial, he claimed the toddler fell out of bed.

Experts told the jury a fatal fall out of bed was extremely unlikely and the extent of his injuries indicated Paul had been physically abused.

Outside court, the family said Paul would have been 50 this year, but instead he lay in an unmarked grave which they cannot find.

They said: “Thinking about this makes us sad, as Paul would have been a man, no doubt married and more than likely with children of his own.

“However, sadly, Paul was not given the opportunity to live his life due to the cruel and wicked actions of David Dearlove.”

Outside court, Detective Inspector Mark Dimelow said the passage of time had not stopped the family getting justice.

He said: “I want to pay tribute to Paul’s family and other witnesses who provided such an emotive testimony and I praise their bravery in having to relive events from 50 years ago.”

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