Craig Crouch: Stepdad accused of murdering baby of woman he met on 'Plenty of Fish' dating site

A stepdad has appeared in court accused of murdering the baby of a woman he met on the ‘Plenty of Fish’ dating site.
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Craig Crouch, aged 39, and Gemma Barton, 32, met in September 2019 when Barton was four months pregnant with her son, who she later gave birth to and named Jacob.

Crouch moved in with Barton just a few months later, was named as Jacob’s father on his birth certificate and described the child as “our little boy”.

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But Jacob, said to have suffered a “culture of cruelty” at the hands of Crouch and Barton, died “in his cot, alone” on December 30, 2020, at his home near Swadlincote, Derbyshire.

Jacob Crouch was just 10 months old when he diedJacob Crouch was just 10 months old when he died
Jacob Crouch was just 10 months old when he died

Derby Crown Court heard the baby had suffered peritonitis – an inflammation of the lining of abdominal organs – after suffering at least 39 rib fractures in a minimum of four separate assaults. He also had 19 visible bruises at the time of his death.

On Friday the court heard that after being shown a photo of Jacob’s ultrasound baby scan in October 2019, Crouch sent a text to Barton and wrote: “I want to be there to hold your hand and support you. I’ll be by your side, 10,000 per cent, beautiful, beautiful.”

A jury heard a selection of “thousands” of text messages between the pair.

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Crouch told Barton in one he was acting “director” of a firm and claimed in another to have been flying in a “private helicopter” to London for business.

He claimed he was a “fully-qualified sports therapist” who used to work with “high-profile footballers, gymnasts and stars”.

Crouch spoke of a “rare heart condition” which required him to consume 5,000 calories a day and that he had a “ridiculously high sex drive” due to his adrenaline being so high.

He added: “I have to sort myself out four times a day.”

The court heard how, following Jacob’s birth, Barton told a health visitor Crouch had moved in with her.

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During a home visit on September 8, 2020, when Jacob was seven months old, Barton pointed out a bruise on his cheek, claiming he had done it “playing with a toy”.

She also reported to the health visitor how the seven-month-old was “becoming too clingy”.

However the defendant was told: “That’s normal – seven-month-old babies like to be held – it shows good attachment.”

Barton, of Ray Street, Heanor and Crouch, of Donisthorpe Lane, Swadlincote, both deny murder, causing or allowing the death of a child, causing a child to suffer serious physical harm and three counts of child cruelty.

The trial continues.