CCTV captured the final moments of a toddler’s life as he held hands with his mother just hours before he was beaten to death by her drug dealing partner.
Kemarni Watson Darby suffered ‘a catalogue of horrendous injuries’ in the weeks before his death which were so severe they were likened to those of a car crash victim.
Convicted drug dealer Nathaniel Pope, 32, was found unanimously guilty of murdering the three-year-old at his home by a Birmingham Crown Court jury on Tuesday.
Kemarni’s mother, 30-year-old Alicia Watson, was cleared of murdering her son but found guilty of causing or allowing the child’s death.
Each was also found guilty of multiple child cruelty counts.
Heartbreaking CCTV played to the court shows Watson and Kemarni walking to and from a medical centre appointment, where she claimed he had a stomach bug, and visiting a McDonald’s just hours before he died.
Kemarni Watson Darby suffered fatal abdominal injuries in an assault at the two-bedroom flat where he lived with Pope and his mother Alicia Watson in West Bromwich, West Midlands
Nathaniel Pope, 32, and Alicia Watson, 30, have been convicted of causing the death of three-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby who suffered weeks of ‘horrendous’ abuse before he died
Killer had history of violence after London bus attack in 2011
The jury which convicted drug-dealer Nathaniel Pope was told some details of his criminal past – but not that he launched a sickening attack on a young mother on a London bus in 2011.
Details of the brutal assault – which saw Pope repeatedly smash the victim’s head into a hand-rail, drag her off the bus by her hair and kick her as she lay on the pavement – were kept from the jury after he claimed they were ‘markedly different’ to the facts surrounding the killing of Kemarni Watson Darby.
The bus attack, committed in Hendon after the victim’s pram accidentally nudged his then partner’s buggy, led to Pope being jailed for four months.
Jurors were told Pope was convicted of common assault and was jailed, but were not given further details of the attack following legal argument.
Prosecutors claimed Pope’s actions demonstrated that he had previously participated in a joint assault with a female partner in front of and with complete disregard to children.
Mrs Justice Tipples praised the ‘extremely impressive’ jury for their ‘dedication and commitment’ throughout the 65-day trial, as one juror openly wept, following delivery of the verdicts.
The judge herself became emotional as she further ordered the 10-member panel of five men and five women to be discharged from future jury service for life due to the ‘awful nature of the facts’ they had had to consider over 20 weeks.
The four-month trial was told Watson and Pope, who blamed each other from the witness box, were ‘partners in crime’ and continued to live together for several months after Kemarni’s death.
Jurors found the youngster died from abdominal injuries on the afternoon of June 5, 2018, after his ribcage was ‘crushed’ at the couple’s two-bedroom flat in West Bromwich, inflicted by Pope.
But also among the fatal injuries to Kemarni’s body were four rib fractures believed by pathologists to have been caused up to four weeks before he was killed at his home in West Bromwich.
Pope, who was jailed for four months in 2011 for a brutal attack on a young mother on a London bus, claimed in court that he had not seen or heard the fatal attack on Kemarni.
The former warehouse worker has previous convictions for burglary and possession of heroin with intent to supply, and was found with a ‘rock’ of crack cocaine hidden in his buttocks when he was arrested for murder in March 2021.
Watson, said to have a ‘zero to 100’ temper, became angry while giving evidence, blaming Pope and claiming she only lived with him after her son’s death because she doubted the medical evidence.
Nathaniel Pope has been convicted at Birmingham Crown Court of murdering his partner’s three-year-old son Kemarni Watson Darby (pictured) after weeks of horrendous cruelty
Pictured: During the trial, jurors were shown pictures of an injury to Kemarni’s right eye
Pictured: The court was shown this image of Kemarni eating toast with a clump of hair on the right of the frame, which his mother Watson claimed the three-year-old had done to himself
During the trial, it emerged she had bought cannabis and spent money on driving lessons as Kemarni lost his nursery place due to lack of funds.
Expert witnesses said the youngster was already in pain from serious injuries when, hours before he was beaten to death, he was taken by Watson to a walk-in health centre, where she told a nurse her son was being sick, had a high temperature and was not eating.
Notes from the visit suggested that Kemarni, who was given medicine for a suspected stomach bug, had been vomiting for five days and was ‘not his usual self’.
Opening the case at the start of the trial, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC said: ‘Post-mortem examinations revealed that Kemarni had sustained horrendous injuries both that day and on earlier occasions.
Pictured: CCTV issued by West Midlands Police of three-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby walking with his mother Alicia Watson past shops near their home in West Bromwich
CCTV showed Watson take Kemarni to the shops and to McDonalds hours before his death
This photo issued by West Midlands Police shows electrical wire being used a makeshift lock on a bedroom door at the flat where three-year-old Kemarni Watson Darby was killed
Mother claimed the case against her was ‘disgustingly wrong’
Alicia Watson cut a defiant and angry figure during much of her six days of evidence – accusing barristers of lying and dismissing the case against her as ‘disgustingly wrong’.
On the fifth day of her testimony, the 30-year-old suffered a nosebleed and told the jury she was mentally and physically exhausted – and was ‘done’ with giving evidence.
The trial judge at Birmingham Crown Court then allowed Watson to complete her testimony by videolink at HMP Foston Hall in Derbyshire – with the end of her cross-examination limited to just one hour.
Watson had always insisted at trial that her son Kemarni must have been attacked by her former lover, Nathaniel Pope, while she was away from their flat, but also claimed she had no idea how he had suffered broken ribs.
During questioning by Pope’s QC Jonas Hankin she spoke of being ‘p****d off’ with some of the questions ranged at her.
During his time-limited questioning of Watson, prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC asked her to account for 34 non-medical related external injury sites found on Kemarni’s body, including some containing multiple bruises.
Asked how many of the injuries she had been aware of, Watson replied: ‘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.’
Claiming to have been horrified at ‘learning’ of Kemarni’s internal injuries, including damage to his abdomen, Watson repeatedly denied lying.
Mr Badenoch put it to Watson that she had not been living with a ‘secretive child abuser’ but acted with Pope to abuse Kemarni ‘for days, months and hours on end’.
Watson said the Crown’s case was ‘disgustingly wrong’, but jurors unanimously convicted her of child cruelty and causing or allowing her little boy’s death, after a 65-day trial.
‘The injuries were evident both externally and internally when a post-mortem examination was conducted.
‘Amongst those injuries were multiple fractures to his skeleton, some of which would have required force akin to a road traffic accident or stamping.
‘Both recent and non-recent injuries were found. There were multiple fractures to both the left and right side of his ribcage which could be dated historically into the hours and weeks preceding his death.
‘At least four separate events caused the fractures. They included corner fractures, fracture lines, partial fractures and a complete transverse fracture.’
Internal bruising and lacerations were also described as extensive, including injuries to Kemarni’s liver and colon.
Mr Badenoch added: ‘It was a mesenteric laceration which ultimately killed him as his abdominal internal structures were forced against his spine with force.
‘In short, he died from abdominal trauma which was most likely caused by a blow.’
During the trial, it emerged that an electrical wire had been used to ‘lock’ a bedroom door at the flat.
Jurors were also shown a photograph of Kemarni with an injury to his right eye, as well as one showing him eating near a clump of his own hair, which Watson claimed he had cut off.
After the jury heard evidence from both defendants, family members, a nursery teacher and a social worker, Mr Badenoch used his closing speech to describe the murder as the brutal killing of an utterly defenceless victim.
He told the court: ‘The prosecution case is that Kemarni suffered a catalogue of horrendous injuries for weeks in advance of his death – caused by levels of extreme force associated with a car crash.
‘He was also marked and scarred in dozens of separate areas, including grip injuries where he had been manhandled in his young life, as he was learning to walk and speak.
‘That was the life of Kemarni in his final weeks – when his mother spent the £25 that was needed for his ongoing nursery attendance on driving lessons and drugs.’
Watson and Pope had provided silence and lies to the court and refused to say what they had done to a child who was ‘full of personality’, Mr Badenoch said.
The prosecutor added the couple had given no explanation for injuries found on Kemarni’s head, mouth, neck, arms, chest, abdomen, back and legs, other than accidents involving prams and doorframes.
Mr Badenoch said of Kemarni: ‘Although he lost his life in the most horrendous way, he had a voice in this courtroom.
Pictured: Expert witnesses said the youngster was already in pain from serious injuries when, hours before he was beaten to death, he was taken by Watson to a walk-in health centre
Pope was jailed for four months in 2011 after attacking a young mother, dragging her off a London bus by her hair and beating her after her pram accidentally nudged his partner’s pram
‘He was also a witness in this courtroom, the most important witness – the silent witness.
‘It is Kemarni’s body that spoke the loudest, with the most clarity, in this courtroom.
‘His squeezed, battered and lifeless, oxygen-starved body cannot lie.
‘This is something which his mother and Nathaniel Pope have summarily sought to discredit, shift around and silence.’
Pope, of Wolverhampton, and Watson, of Handsworth, Birmingham, were also convicted of child cruelty to Kemarni between May 1 and June 5 2018, relating to the infliction of rib fractures and an abdominal injury prior to the fatal injury.
They were also separately convicted of two further counts of child cruelty in relation to other children.
One of the bedrooms in the two-bedroom flat where Kemarni Watson Darby was murdered
Police shared this image of Watson and Pope’s kitchen taken during the investigation
Pictured: The living room where Kemarni was pictured eating toast next to a clump of his hair
In a statement released today Detective Inspector James Mahon, who led the investigation, said: ‘It’s been a horrific case for everyone involved and I’d like to extend my thanks to the jury, who have engaged and considered everything put before them, they are ordinary members of the public who have had to listen to the details of this case for over 10 weeks.’
He added: ‘Kemarni was so young and would not have been able to explain what was happening, or the pain that he was feeling to those that cared for him.
‘It’s absolutely awful that the two people who were supposed to look after him the most were those that caused injury, and in the end his death.
‘I hope that the conviction of both Pope and Watson today at least gives Kemarni’s loved ones some form of closure.’
Pope and Watson will be sentenced on May 23.