Kemarni Watson Darby: Man jailed for life for ‘horrendous’ murder of toddler

Mother Alicia Watson was also jailed for 11 years for allowing three-year-old son’s death

Holly Bancroft
Tuesday 24 May 2022 15:57
Police release CCTV footage of the hours before Kemarni Watson Darby's murder

A man has been sentenced to life in prison and will serve a minimum of 24 years for murdering his partner’s three-year-old son and leaving him “to bleed to death”.

Nathaniel Pope, 32, subjected the young Kemarni Watson Darby to weeks of “horrendous” beating, delivering blows that were similar to those caused in a car crash.

Birmingham Crown Court heard that Kemarni had suffered more than 20 fractures “some of which would have required force akin to a road traffic accident”.

His mother, Alicia Watson, was also jailed for 11 years after being found guilty of three child cruelty charges. She was cleared by a jury of murdering her son but was found guilty of causing or allowing his death at her West Bromwich flat.

Sentencing Nathaniel Pope for life, Ms Justice Tipples said that she was sure he was under the influence of cannabis when he killed the three-year-old. “The final assault involved multiple blows to his chest, limbs and abdomen from fists, kicking or with an object,” she said.

“This was a severe and sustained assault which will have caused extreme distress and pain and that would have been obvious to you.”

Kemarni died from abdominal injuries on 5 June 2018 after his rib cage was “crushed”, with the trial hearing that the final injury was “most likely caused by a blow”.

Judge Tipples said on Tuesday that 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.”

Three-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby suffered beatings so severe in the weeks before his murder his injuries were likened to those of a car crash victim

The bedroom of the flat where Kemarni was killed

She added: “I am sure that you did this when Alicia Watson was out. When you [Watson] returned, you found Kemarni’s lifeless body on the sofa and dialled 999.”

Watson knew Pope was physically injuring Kemarni and had done nothing to stop it, the judge said, while she also “regularly beat him hard” with her hands.

Kemarni’s father, Darren Darby, paid tribute to his young son yesterday, telling the sentencing judge that Kemarni was “always smiling and laughing”.

His mother, Watson, had taken her son to hospital on 5 June 2018, but he was pronounced dead later that evening.

During the trial, Watson maintained that she had not been aware of Kemarni’s injuries. When asked by prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC how many injuries she remembers, Watson said: “None. He had old scarring from accidents but nothing new as far as I knew.

“I didn’t cause them, I didn’t see them. I loved and cared for my child for three years.”

Recent and non-recent injuries were found on Kemarni’s body, including multiple fractures to his rib cage. He also suffered internal bruising, the court heard.

Alicia Watson, 30, and her ex-boyfriend Nathaniel Pope, 32, who have been jailed over the death of her three-year-old son Kemarni Watson Darby who died on 5 June 2018

The living room of the flat where Kemarni died

The couple were described in court as “partners in crime”.

“The pair blamed one another from the witness box, despite continuing to have lived together for several months after the boy’s death,” the court heard.

Kermani’s father, Darren Darby, said that he had been aware that his son was being slapped, punched and kicked by his mother, who he described as “strict”.

Kemarni suffered multiple fractures to his ribs before he died

Kemarni eating some toast and sitting next to a clump of his own hair

“Everybody did know that she was beating Kemarni,” he told the trial. “We all let him down.” In a statement read to the sentencing hearing, Mr Darby said: “My son Kemarni was an active, fun, boisterous, cheeky young boy.

“He was always smiling and laughing. His life has been cruelly cut short. He had the potential to be so much. I will not get to be involved in the key moments of his life.”

Mr Darby recounted hearing the news that Kemarni was dead, saying: “I cannot put into words how I felt”.

Kemarni is pictured with a bruised eye

“As time went on I would be told about the injuries Kemarni had,” he continued. “It didn’t come all at once, it was piece by piece, revelation by revelation. Both Alicia and Nathaniel told lies so you can’t be sure what’s truth and what’s fiction. All I feel is anger towards them - I feel deceived by them.”

Prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said that convicted drug dealer Nathaniel Pop has “abused his position of trust”. He said: “Kemarni was particularly vulnerable. Pope was the partner of Kemarni’s mother, Kemarni was in his care. He was responsible for him. He did have significant caring responsibilities.”

He added that “drugs were a priority in that home on any view and on occasions, were prioritised over the child.”

Kemarni’s grandmother, Paulette Ellis, described the three-year-old as a “bubbly, friendly little one”.

“We all miss him and it’s taken a toll on the rest of the family,” she told Sky News.

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