A three-year-old boy repeatedly screamed “I hurt” after being burned in an acid attack allegedly planned by his father, a court has heard.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, suffered serious burns to his face and arm in a “cowardly attack”, which took place at the Home Bargains store in Worcester on 21 July 2018.
The incident took place during a parental custody dispute triggered by his father, who also cannot be named.
It is alleged that the 40-year-old father, who was said to be angry at his wife for walking out on him and taking the children in April 2016, “enlisted others” to attack the boy.
The man was attempting to win more contact with the child and wanted to discredit his wife as an “unfit mother,” according to prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC.
Mr Rees said “the evidence suggests that, in an effort to ensure his application [for greater access] was successful, he was willing to manufacture evidence of injuries to his children in an attempt to show that his wife was unable properly to care for them”.
He has been charged with conspiring to unlawfully or maliciously cast or throw sulphuric acid on or at the boy between 1 June and 22 July, with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable the minor, or do grievous bodily harm to him.
Facing the same charge are Adam Cech, 27, of Farnham Road, Birmingham; Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham; Norbert Pulko, 22, of Sutherland Road, London; Martina Badiova, 22, of Newcombe Road, Handsworth, Birmingham; Saied Hussini, 42, of Wrottesley Road, London; and Jabar Paktia, 42, of Newhampton Road, Wolverhampton.
They all deny the allegation.
In CCTV footage shown to jurors, the mother of the boy drove her children to the Home Bargains store to buy a party gift and was followed by a Vauxhall Vectra, allegedly containing Cech, Dudi and Pulko.
Mr Rees said the boy was attacked inside the store by a man in a white T-shirt, who was identified in court as Cech.
In the footage, the boy is seen in distress and is comforted by his mother and siblings.
"His mother was a short distance away as the attack is carried out, and the sister heard the victim scream out, 'I hurt, I hurt, I hurt',” Mr Rees said.
The boy suffered a 10cm burn to his left forearm, and a 3cm burn on his forehead, which needed specialist hospital treatment.
“Thankfully, due to the quick actions of a member of staff, the seriousness of the injuries was limited and, although it is too early to say whether or not there will be any residual marking, the victim has made a good recovery,” Mr Rees said.
The 21 July attack is not thought to be the only attempt to harm the boy, according to the prosecutor.
Jurors were also told of an earlier “aborted attempt”, eight days before the attack, near a school.
In that incident, a neighbour was concerned by two men and a woman in a black Vauxhall Astra.
She took photographs of the three people, who are alleged to be Hussini, Pulko, and Badiova.
One of the men was wearing "clear plastic gloves" and Badiova was allegedly walking “back and forth” between the car and school, acting as a “lookout”.
Mr Rees said a CCTV camera on the side of a shop then captured Pulko approaching the mother and her children as they left school, "with an object in his left hand".
"As they approached the entrance to the car park, Pulko was almost within touching distance of the child, who was holding his mother's hand," said Mr Rees.
"As the mother and her children walked into the car park, Pulko stops following them and crosses the road.”
The prosecutor suggested an attempted attack may have been aborted then because there were “too many people around.”
The Crown said the child's father was "updated" by phone two minutes later about the attempt by Pulko and Paktia.
Although the neighbour's sighting was reported to police, the incident was "not deemed to be an emergency" and officers did not arrive before the three people left.
In the hours leading up to the 21 July attack, Mr Rees said a witness spotted what is alleged to have been Cech, Dudi and Pulko, by a Vauxhall Vectra near the mother's address, acting "weird".
"He (the witness) saw one of the men pour liquid from a bottle on to the other two men's hands, before pouring it on his own hands," said Mr Rees.
"The prosecution suggest the apparent washing of the hands episode would be consistent with the handling of some sort of corrosive fluid, such as acid."
During this time, it was alleged Paktia, back in Wolverhampton, was “coordinating” by telephone contact with Pulko and the child's father.
Robin Walker, MP for Worcester, described the incident as “horrific” at the time and called for moves to toughen sentences for any kind of acid attack.
The trial continues.
Agencies contributed to this report