LONDON: David Dearlove has been found guilty of killing his 19-month-old stepson Paul Booth by swinging him by the ankles into a fireplace, smashing his skull. It would be almost 50 years before the killer’s secret would finally be exposed after a seemingly innocuous post on Facebook.
When he saw the faded picture of his little brother Paul on his stepfather’s knee, Peter Booth became incensed.
The 53-year-old had spotted the photograph posted by a family member on social media – reigniting in him a long-buried anger at what he saw on the night of 1 October, 1968.
Not for the first time, he went to the police and recounted how just before his fourth birthday, he had watched through a crack in the door as David Dearlove swung the toddler into the fire surround.
Terrified, he fled back up the stairs of the family home in Stockton, Teesside.
“All you were ever told was that Paul had died by falling out of bed and hitting his head,” Mr Booth had told Teesside Crown Court at his stepfather’s trial.
“When I told my mum what I had seen she totally blanked me and did not want to know.
“Whenever Paul’s name was mentioned, just a brick wall would go up.
“We were never asked, it was never spoken about. One minute he was there, the next he was gone.
“The image has haunted me since I was almost four years old to standing here today.”
Dearlove had denied murder and maintained – as he had done for five decades – that the little boy fell out of bed.
The youngster died the same night in hospital, having suffered a fractured skull, and an open verdict – a finding that confirms cause of death was not known – at the inquest laid the matter to rest for many years.
But for Mr Booth, what he saw the night he crept downstairs for a drink and peered around the door continued to plague him.
The Facebook post only cemented his sense of injustice.
“Dearlove’s son David posted an image of his dad with Paul and I got angry,” Mr Booth told jurors.
“I did not want it on there because of what he had done to Paul and what he had done to me.”