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Mother and stepfather of tragic toddler Ali-Jayden Doyle returned for trial

Ali Jayden Doyle
Ali-Jayden Doyle

After a number of delays the case against a couple charged in connection with the murder of toddler Ali-Jayden Doyle has been returned for trial, with some adjustment to the allegations.

The two-year-old died on August 6, 2021, having sustained what was described as “catastrophic head injuries” allegedly caused by her stepfather Darren John Armstrong (33) of Park Avenue, Dungannon, but remanded in custody since his arrest.

He and the child’s mother Jade Dempsey (26) of Sycamore Drive, Dungannon but since bailed to an unspecified address, appeared today (Friday) for a committal hearing, although their cases were dealt with separately.

Armstrong is charged with murdering Ali-Jayden on August 6, 2021 while Dempsey is charged with causing the death of the child by knowing there was significant risk of serious harm and failing to take steps to protect her.

She is further accused of child cruelty by wilfully neglecting and exposing Ali-Jayden to unnecessary suffering or injury.

A prosecuting lawyer told Dungannon Magistrates’ Court there is a case to answer which was agreed by District Judge Michael Ranaghan.

Armstrong and Dempsey did not object to the proceedings and declined to call witnesses or give evidence on their own behalf at this stage.

Judge Ranaghan ordered them to appear for arraignment at Dungannon Crown Court on June 1, with Armstrong remanded in custody and Dempsey on continuing bail.

When the pair first appeared in court it was disclosed an ambulance crew attended Armstrong’s home to a report of an unconscious child.

Paramedics found Ali-Jayden unresponsive and were suspicious of Armstrong’s claim that she fell against the fireplace, striking her head.

She was rushed to hospital but tragically passed away.

Armstrong was arrested on suspicion of murder the same day and Dempsey would be arrested a short time later.

It transpired both Ali-Jayden and her brother were on the Child Protection Register due to Dempsey’s relationship with Armstrong, who was strictly banned from access to them.

Dempsey claimed she went to his house to return a bank card and realised one of the children had lost their dummy, so left them with him while she re-traced her steps.

She had in fact arranged to leave the children with him while she went to Belfast to purchase a pram.

On her way to the bus, Armstrong sent a text complaining Ali-Jayden’s baby brother was “seriously melting” his head and “won’t stop crying”.

His next communication was a phone call saying Ali-Jayden was injured.

A post-mortem revealed injuries so extensive it wasn’t possible to establish how many times there had been impact.

Both were refused bail when first charged but Dempsey was later released on strict terms by the High Court.

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