Detective tells of moment Kemarni Watson Darby walked to his death

Three year-old’s mum and partner jailed for a least 35 years following his death at a flat in West Bromwich

Kermarni Watson Darby was caught on camera holding his mum’s hand as they may their way back to their home - a flat in West Bromwich.

The three-year-old takes a look ahead as he toddles through the door to the stairwell, not knowing of the brutal violence that lay ahead at the hands of Nathaniel Pope, his mother’s partner.

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It is this shot that still haunts Detective Inspector James Mahon who investigated the case - because it captures the moment that Kemarni Watson Darby walked to his death.

The DI explains the tragic irony that Kemarni was being guided by his mum, Alicia Watson - the very person who should have been there to care and protect him.

On Tuesday (May 24) Pope and Waton were jailed for at least 35 years for the death of Kemarni who suffered "car crash-like" injuries during a campaign of "horrendous" cruelty.

Little Kemarni Watson Darby was discovered by paramedics lifeless on a bedroom floor at a "flat of horrors" on June 5, 2018.

He had suffered more than 20 rib fractures, internal injuries and bruising as a result of a "horrific" campaign of abuse at the hands of the pair.

The youngster died from internal bleeding caused by blunt force trauma and his injuries were so severe the force used was compared to that of a car crash or a fall from height.

Kemarni Watson Darby

A court heard how Pope had used electrical wire to keep Kemarni trapped in his bedroom before he finally "lost it" and battered the youngster to "shut him up".

He had smoked cannabis and then left the tot to bleed to death on the family sofa until Watson returned from the school run to discover his lifeless body.

Last month, Watson, 31, was found guilty of causing or allowing her son’s death while convicted drug dealer Pope, 32, was convicted of murder.

Both defendants were also convicted of multiple counts of child cruelty at Birmingham Crown Court.

Pope, of Wolverhampton, was jailed for life to serve a minimum of 24 years while Watson, of Handsworth, Birmingham, was caged for 11 years.

Detective Inspector James Mahon, of West Midlands Police, said after the case: “It’s been a horrific case for everyone involved and I’d like to extend my thanks to the jury, who have engaged and considered everything put before them, they are ordinary members of the public who have had to listen to the details of this case for over 10 weeks.

“Kemarni was so young and would not have been able to explain what was happening, or the pain that he was feeling to those that cared for him.

“It’s absolutely awful that the two people who were supposed to look after him the most were those that caused injury, and in the end his death.

“I hope that the conviction of both Pope and Watson at least gives Kemarni’s loved ones some form of closure.”

Alicia Watson and Nathaniel Pope were found guilty of multiple child cruelty counts (Photo: West Midlands Police)

What did the sentencing judge say about the murder of Kemarni?

Sentencing, Mrs Justice Amanda Tipples told Pope he had launched the "severe and sustained" assault because he had considered Kemarni "a nuisance" who "got in the way" of his relationship with Watson.

She said: "This was a particularly distressing and tragic case.

"Kermani was a lively, boisterous, cheeky and happy child. He has a sunny personality and was loved by so many people, both friends and family.

"They remember him laughing and smiling, and being happy. Kermani’s death has had a significant impact on his family.

"They are all devastated that Kermani is no longer part of their lives and that they will never see him grow up.

"You Nathaniel 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.

"Skilled medical examinations identified the cause of Kemarni’s death. He died from inflicted abdominal injuries.

"The fatal injuries were extremely severe and a result of extreme force.

"These injuries were compatible with the type of injuries seen in a road traffic collision or when an individual falls from height.

Kemarni Watson Darby with his mother Alicia Watson as they returned to the flat in West Bromwich where he was fatally assaulted on June 5 2018

"This would have been very painful for Kemarni and caused him significant distress which you Nathaniel Pope would have been aware of.

"I am sure the pain he was in lasted from several hours to several days and as a result of that pain he reduced his level of activity to minimise the pain he was suffering.

"This would have been clear to you Alicia Watson yet you neglected to do anything about it.

"The final assault involved multiple blows to chest, limbs and abdomen through fists, kicking or with an object.

"This was a severe and sustained assault, which would have caused Kemarni extreme distress and pain and that would have been obvious to you.

"You were both habitual drug users, you and Nathaniel Pope were smoking cannabis daily.

"I am also sure that you Nathaniel Pope were under the influence of cannabis when you killed Kermani

"You had seen Alicia Watson abusing Kemarni by slapping him. Abusing Kemarni was, and became, accepted conduct in your flat.

"Kemarni was not your son and did not mean anything to you. You saw him as a nuisance who got in the way of your relationship with Alicia Watson.

"You abused your position of trust, you inflicted mental and physical suffering on Kemarni before he died.

"You Alicia Watson had a short temper and would get really angry. You would shout and scream at him and regularly beat him with the palm of your hand.

Nathaniel Pope shows no signs of remorse and looks relaxed when being questioned by police on their arrival to the scene after Kemarni Watson Darby died

"He was a toddler. He was being toilet trained but the way you responded to him was to call him a ‘f**king knob’ and call his behaviour naughty when it simply reflected the lack of care and parenting he received from you as his mother.

"I do not detect any remorse from you. You were Kermani’s mother, in a position of trust over him and his primary protector.

"This was a case which involved prolonged and multiple incidents of cruelty. There is clear disregard for the victim.

"You failed to take any steps to protect Kermani from the violence."

Kemarni Watson Darby with mother Alicia Watson walking home from the medical centre

What else was the court told about how Pope and Watson treated Kermarni?

The trial was told Kemarni had most likely been stamped on and had been subjected to physical abuse on several occasions in the weeks leading up to his death.

Watson lied to several people about her son’s injuries - telling his nursery and other family members that he’d been hurt in a play fight with his siblings.

On the day he died, she took Kemarni to a medical centre where she told medics her son was suffering from a suspected stomach bug.

At no point did she disclose that he had been assaulted and heartbreaking CCTV shows the mum and son visiting a McDonald’s just hours before he died.

Other images show the cramped and squalid conditions at Watson’s two bedroomed flat with litter strewn across the property.

Expert pathologists gave evidence that it was extremely likely that Kemarni suffered the fatal injuries when he returned home from the doctor’s appointment.

They believed there was no way he could have stood up and walked, let alone make it to the doctor’s surgery with the injuries he later died of.

Kemarni was left with a "plethora" of severe injuries including multiple fractures to his rib cage and wounds to his liver and colon.

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

Scene at the flat in West Bromwich where Kemarni Watson Darby lived

In a harrowing 999 call played to the jury, Watson can be heard telling operators her lifeless son was "not responding".

The call-handler asks her "Is the patient breathing?" to which she replies: "Yeah, but he’s not responding to me.

"He’s three-years-old, he’s not responding, he’s not responding.

"I took him to the doctors this morning and I’ve just gone to pick up my other children but he’s not responding to me."

She then goes on to tell the operator "his breathing is quiet" before she can be heard sobbing down the phone.

Kemarni Watson Darby

What has the Crown Prosecution Service said about the case?

Giovanni D’Alessandro, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This was a deeply disturbing case of two people who were supposed to be protecting a defenceless three-year-old boy but instead subjected him to cruelty and repeated bouts of violence.

"It’s incomprehensible that little Kemarni was subjected to such heinous acts of brutality in his final days, causing him intense and ongoing pain and distress before ultimately killing him.

"Rather than take responsibility for their actions, both Watson and Pope repeatedly lied and sought only to blame one another for all of these crimes.

“My thoughts are with the remaining members of Kemarni’s family. Nothing can bring him back, nor do I imagine that this conviction will bring comfort to those that knew and loved him.

"What I do hope is that the fact that his killer has been brought to justice and that he faces a lengthy prison sentence will assist them in coping with their grief and loss.”

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