A three-year-old girl suffered a fatal brain injury after her head was allegedly slammed against a wall by her mother’s boyfriend.
‘Bright and bubbly’ Lylah Aaron was kicked, slapped and punched in the head by Delroy Catwell, Sheffield Crown Court heard.
Catwell is said to have been jealous that the toddler was getting more attention from her mother than he was.
Lylah was found to have four broken ribs and the prosecution claim she was assaulted by Catwell several weeks before she died in February.
Traces of her blood were found on the carpet close to a crack in the plasterboard wall, which contained Afro-Caribbean hairs, in the main bedroom of her home.
While Catwell claims the wall was damaged while he was attempting to kill a spider four months previously, the prosecution say that explanation is ‘implausible’ and that forensic evidence points to Lylah having had her head smashed off the wall.
Catwell, a DJ who lived with Lylah’s mother Precious Chibanda in Shiregreen, Sheffield, denies murder.
Bryan Cox QC, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The couple’s relationship was generally good but sometimes he would complain he felt sidelined and she gave too much to Lylah.’
The defendant later told police the girl was full of energy and he ‘found it hard to deal with her demands at times.’
Emergency services were called to the house by a frantic Miss Chibanda, a nurse at Derby Royal Infirmary, when she found her daughter ‘very ill’ on February 8.
Paramedics discovered Lylah’s body was rigid and attempted resuscitation. She was rushed to hospital on the evening but doctors could not revive her and her life support machine was switched off.
Subsequent examinations by medical specialists found both swelling and fresh bleeding around Lylah’s brain.
Mr Cox QC said: ‘There were numerous bruises over her body, her face, her head and inside and behind her ears. Some of the bruises were small but many were substantial.
‘They included substantial bruising to her head, fractures to her ribs and bruising to her arm.
‘The injuries indicated she had been subject to a sustained and forceful assault that had occurred within hours of her admission to hospital.
Doctors also found clear evidence of an earlier and quite separate assault, a healing rib fracture and earlier bleeding on the brain.
‘Those injuries indicated she had suffered an earlier assault two to five weeks previously.’
Catwell had sole care of Lylah on the day she suffered her fatal injuries.
Her mother had gone to work and Catwell failed to take Lylah to her nursery where staff described her as ‘bright’ and a ‘confident, bubbly little girl’.
He claimed the girl was ill and did not want to go but the prosecution allege he inflicted the fatal injuries before Miss Chibanda returned from work about 4.30pm.
Mr Cox alleged: ‘The number, type and severity of the injuries sustained by Lylah make it clear she was the victim of a deliberate assault by the defendant.’
Lylah’s natural father split with South-African born Miss Chibanda before Lylah was born and Catwell moved in with the mother in her two-bedroom detached home towards the end of 2011.
The mother thought Catwell had taken Lylah to nursery but got a call at work from him saying the child was unwell.
She returned home, found Lylah asleep and checked on her three times before she decided to wake her daughter but she was cold and there was no response.
Doctors at Sheffield Children’s Hospital found Lylah had bruises to her head and bleeding in her eyes which were fixed and dilated.
A pathologist reported that the bruises to Lylah’s head were ‘typical of non-accidental injuries’ and bruising in and behind the left ear ‘suggested impact from a hard object with a straight linear surface.’
He went on: ‘Other bruises could have been caused by kicks, slaps or punches.’
All the bruises had been caused within 24 hours of her death after she had been put to bed the previous evening.
Medical experts found scar tissue on the brain indicating a three-week-old injury and the four rib fractures.
One of the fractures was about three weeks old while the other three were fresh breaks had been caused by ‘squeezing or compression’.
Mr Cox said the medics concluded Lylah died from repeated impacts causing fatal bleeding to the brain.
The court heard Catwell had also been in sole care of Lylah when the wall was damaged and that the nursery had contacted Miss Chibanda seven months earlier to say Lylah had a bruise on her neck.
Catwell told the mother she had banged her head on a sink.
When arrested, the defendant said Lylah had been ill for a few days. She was tired and would not eat her breakfast so he put her back in bed and never left the house all day.
He told officers: ‘I have never hit Lylah. I didn’t cause any injuries whatsoever.’
The trial continues.