Tragic toddler was on child-protection register due to mother’s relationship with man charged with her murder

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The mother of a two-year-old girl, and the mother's partner, have appeared in court in relation to the death in Dungannon last week.

Darren John Armstrong (32) of Park Avenue, Dungannon, but also with an address at Ardbeg Drive Dungannon is charged with murdering Ali Jayden Doyle on 6 August and perverting the course of justice by providing police with misleading information.

His partner Jade Dempsey of Sycamore Drive, Dungannon is charged with perverting the course of justice and causing the death of a child.

 Detective Sergeant James Brannigan told Omagh Magistrates Court all charges could be connected.

Lawyers for Dempsey voiced concerns around her arrest and felt the evidence against her “lacks a number of components.”

Outlining the background of the case, Detective Brannigan explained around 11am on the morning in question, NI Ambulance Service were called to the Park Avenue address to a report of an unconscious child.

They found little Ali unresponsive and high on the coma scale, not reacting to pain or motor response.

Armstrong claimed Ali’s baby brother hit her with a toy, causing her to fall and strike her heard on the fireplace.

While Ali was being rushed to the Royal Victoria Hospital paramedics became concerned about the account given by both Armstrong and Dempsey, and contacted police and Social Services.

Shortly after arriving at hospital, the child passed away.

The court heard both children had been placed on the Child Protection Register in April, due to Dempsey was in a relationship with Armstrong.

She was: “Expressly told on a number of occasions that he was to have no access – supervised or unsupervised – with these two children.”

Later that night Armstrong was arrested on suspicion of murder.

Dempsey claimed to have arrived at his house to return a back card she had borrowed and while there released one of the children had lost it’s dummy. She decided to “re-trace her steps” and left them with Armstrong.

In the process of this, she claims Armstrong rang her and stated Ali was hurt.

She returned to the house to find paramedics in attendance.

Investigations revealed the couple had arranged for Dempsey to travel to Belfast to purchase a pram, and would leave the children with Armstrong while she was gone.

She sent a text to him around 10.30am saying they were on their way and the taxi driver who took her to Park Avenue described Ali as: “Alert and in good spirits.”

After leaving them off Dempsey made her way to the bus station and about 10.45am Armstrong’s sent her a video of the child watching television.

Minutes later he sent a text referring to Ali’s baby brother saying: “He’s seriously melting my head. He won’t stop. Crying for completely nothing.”

Dempsey tells Armstrong to: “Let him out of the chair. He likes to do his own thing.”

Close to 11am he rings Dempsey and it is this call which police believe if the notification that Ali is injured.

A port mortem revealed the injury: “More likely to be non-accidental. The injuries are so extensive the pathologist could not say how many times the head had been impacted.  Over 25 years experience the pathologist never seen this level of injury from accidental injury in a child or adult.”

A neighbour told police they heard one child screaming and another crying.

“What alerted this person to the screams was the child was not taking a breath. It was a continuous scream,” said the detective.

He added: “We believe both children were distressed and for some reason Armstrong has attacked Ali.”

Paramedics noted she was “wet to the touch” with Armstrong claimed to have carried water from the kitchen which he threw over her in an attempt to revive her.

However later in police interview he said he placed her in the shower to revive her.

Opposing bail, the detective said Dempsey had travelled to her family in Dublin in the aftermath and while she had presented herself for arrest when required, had indicated her intention to give up her Dungannon house and go back home.

Armstrong is described as having a lengthy record and may abscond or reoffend is released.

Under cross-examination Detective Brannigan confirmed Armstrong called the ambulance and followed the instructions given by paramedics until their arrival.

He disagreed the case was “largely circumstantial” pointing out video footage had been found of the child being well shortly beforehand, who then: “Suffered catastrophic injuries which were non-accidental.”

Armstrong’s lawyer said his client offered: “A full, frank and detailed account … He is entitled to his liberty and the presumption of innocence. It’s a serious offence but I believe he is a suitable candidate for bail.”

Dempsey’s lawyer said she was initially a witness who provided information to police although it was  was accepted she had left the children with Armstrong when both knew this was not permitted.

“She is a victim. She has had a horrendous life having her other two children taken into care. She needs to be allowed to grieve as a mother who has lost a child.”

He said two sureties are willing to put forward cash to secure her release.

District Judge Bernie Kelly remarked: “I do not consider either to be suitable for bail”

In respect of Dempsey who wept throughout the hearing, Judge Kelly said: “She is an actual flight risk and her family support is in Dublin. Her youngest child is now also in care. She has little reason to remain here.”

Turning to Armstrong, she added: “He has a litany of breaches on an extensive criminal record. I entertain no confidence he would adhere to any bail terms I could impose.”

The pair were remanded in custody to appear by video-link at Dungannon Magistrates Court later this month Dempsey wept throughout proceedings

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