Jacob Crouch trial: Derbyshire step-dad promised Audi car gift and boasted of private work helicopter

A court has heard a series of text messages charting the growing romance between a Derbyshire man and woman accused of murdering a 10-month-old baby after they met on Plenty Of Fish.
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Craig Crouch, 39, and Gemma Barton, 32, met in September 2019 on the dating website when Barton was four months pregnant with Jacob Crouch.

Crouch, who told Barton he ran “the entire operation” and was “director” at the JCB plant in Uttoxeter, had moved in with her just a few months later.

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Just a few weeks after meeting Barton, Crouch, who was named as Jacob’s father on his birth certificate, described the unborn child as “our little boy”.

Derby Crown Court heard Jacob 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.Derby Crown Court heard Jacob 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.
Derby Crown Court heard Jacob 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.

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.

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 he 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.”

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

Crouch told Barton in one he was acting “director” at JCB in Staffordshire while the company’s CEO was running a sister company.

While he claimed to be flying in a “private helicopter” owned by the company to take him to London for business, adding “I’m waiting for the bird now”.

As the transcript was read to the court Crouch told pregnant Barton he could assist her with her back problems, adding: “Your back is the biggest muscle in your body and it’s vitally important to keep it looked after.

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“When I used to massage at Bannatyne health spa a lot of girls used to come in who were pregnant and say they had back problems.

"I’m a fully-qualified sports therapist – I don’t do it anymore due to me becoming too high in demand. Before I stopped professionally I used to do 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.”

On September 29, after the couple had spent the night together, Crouch texted Barton a link to a car for sale, asking “do you like this? I’m buying it for you, it’s a gift Gemma.

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In later messages he showed Barton a list of Audi cars for sale, telling her “pick one”, however during numerous messages none of the vehicles were fit for purchase - for various reasons such as poor performance during test drives.

On another occasion Crouch offered to cover a payment of £420 for Barton's first rental payment on a new flat – with Barton later texting “just checked my bank and money not in yet”.

In various replies Crouch claimed problems with his banking app or extra security layers due to his large bank balance of “over £100,000”.

The court heard how, following Jacob’s birth, Barton told a health visitor Crouch had now 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.