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‘No missed opportunities’ to prevent death of three-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby, review finds

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There were “no missed opportunities” for professionals to prevent the death of a three-year-old boy murdered by his mother’s partner, a serious case review has found.

Kemarni Watson Darby died from abdominal injuries on 5 June 2018, after his rib cage was “crushed” at the couple’s flat in West Bromwich.

Nathaniel Pope, 32, was found guilty of his murder in April and jailed for a minimum of 24 years.

Kemarni’s mother – Alicia Watson, 30 – was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of her son and sentenced to 11 years in prison.

The trial heard Kemarni had expressed a wish not to go home to his mother’s flat after visits with his father, Darren Darby, who told the trial he knew his son was being slapped, punched and kicked by “strict” Watson.

He also said he had warned Watson about Pope and asked her to be cautious of him.

Other family members, including Kemarni’s nursery, had also raised concerns about injuries.

But Lesley Hagger, chair of Sandwell Children’s Safeguarding Partnership, said on Friday an independent review “has concluded that there were no missed opportunities for professionals to intervene and prevent his death”.

“There were no identified safeguarding concerns regarding Kemarni prior to his death in 2018, and there was no children’s social care involvement directly with him,” she added.

Alicia Watson and Nathaniel Pope. Pics: West Midlands Police
Image:
Alicia Watson and Nathaniel Pope. Pics: West Midlands Police

‘Shocked and appalled’

This week, Pope and Watson’s sentences were referred to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentences scheme to be reviewed.

A spokesperson confirmed the referral and said the attorney general was “shocked and appalled” by the case.

The trial at Birmingham Crown Court heard Kemarni had suffered multiple fractures, “some of which would have required force akin to a road traffic accident” or stamping on his body with a “shod foot”.

Recent and non-recent injuries were found, including multiple fractures to both the left and right side of his rib cage, caused by at least four separate events.

He had also suffered extensive internal bruising and lacerations to his liver and colon.

Kemarni died of abdominal trauma, which the court heard “was most likely caused by a blow”.

There were additional bruises on his head, mouth, neck, arms, chest, abdomen, back and legs from “repeated and, in all probability, sustained assaults”.

Kemarni Watson Darby's bedroom (Pic: West Midlands Police)
Image:
Kemarni’s bedroom. Pic: West Midlands Police

‘Happy little boy’

In April – weeks before his death – Kemarni was seen by a health visitor who described him as “a happy little boy
who was very sociable”.

On the day of his death, Kemarni had been taken by his mother to a GP walk-in centre just before midday because he had been vomiting for five days.

Kemarni “showed no signs of distress and there was no evidence of any visible injuries”, the review found.

He had no contact with agencies other than “universal” services, and some contacts with medical professionals that were not regarded as out of the ordinary, it added.

Kemarni was left in the care of Pope by Watson that afternoon for around 40 minutes. She returned to find her son unresponsive.

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