A man accused of plotting an acid attack on his three-year-old son has told a jury he was “never” involved and was “shocked” to be arrested.
The boy, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, suffered serious burns to his face and arm at the Home Bargains store in Worcester on July 21 last year, during a parental custody dispute.
His 40-year-old father is charged with conspiring to unlawfully or maliciously cast or throw sulphuric acid on or at the boy between June 1 and July 22, with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable the minor, or do grievous bodily harm.
A trial jury at Worcester Crown Court has already been shown dramatic CCTV of the moment of the attack, and heard how the injured child screamed “I hurt” after being struck.
Giving evidence in his defence for the first time on Thursday, the father was asked: “In July last year, did you arrange for acid to be thrown at your son?”
The father, standing in the witness box wearing a white shirt and jeans and speaking through a Dari interpreter, said: “No, never.”
He told his barrister, Phil Bradley QC, he only found out about the attack when he was arrested at his Wolverhampton home.
Asked about his feelings on being detained, he told the jury: “I was very shocked.”
Mr Bradley asked: “Had you any idea that little boy was going to be attacked?”
The father replied “no” and denied knowing anyone might have been following his son with acid.
He also denied telling his wife she had “humiliated” him after the couple split on a previous occasion in 2012, resulting in her leaving the family home with the children.
He was then asked about an allegation his wife repeated to jurors during her evidence, when she claimed he had spoken to an imam about killing her and the children because she had left him.
Asked if he had ever asked such a question, he replied: “No, I cannot even think of that.”
The father, originally from Afghanistan, is on trial alongside Adam Cech, 27, of Farnham Road, Birmingham; Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham; Norbert Pulko, 22, of Sutherland Road, London; Martina Badiova, 22, of Newcombe Road, Handsworth, Birmingham; Saied Hussini, 42, of Wrottesley Road, London; and Jabar Paktia, 42, of Newhampton Road, Wolverhampton.
They all deny the same charge.
When the clip of the attack from a Home Bargains shop camera was played to jurors last week, the boy’s father held a tissue to his face.
Opening the prosecution case, Jonathan Rees QC said the boy’s mother had driven to the store with her children at about 2pm to buy a party gift.
CCTV, which has been played in court, showed her being followed by a silver Vauxhall Vectra, allegedly containing Cech, Dudi and Pulko.
At 2.13pm she and the children went inside the store, followed shortly after by three men, with shop CCTV apparently showing Cech approaching the victim.
The victim was standing with his sibling near a display of toy footballs when a man in a white T-shirt, identified without dispute in court as Cech, walked past the victim with his arm extended and an object in his hand.
As Cech exited the frame, the victim could be seen looking quickly back towards him before running to his mother nearby.
Mr Rees told jurors: “What you have just seen is that person in a white T-shirt – you can just catch the moment where the arm is extended.
“That really is the hub of this case. That is the acid attack. It is over in a split second.”
The boy suffered a 10cm burn to his left forearm, and a 3cm burn on his forehead, which needed specialist hospital treatment.
The Crown has also claimed that Hussini, Pulko and Badiova were involved in an “aborted” attempt near a school eight days before the shop attack.
Jurors have also been shown what the prosecution described as “some stickers being sent with motifs and images”, from the victim’s father to Paktia, later on the evening after the attack, including one which read “Nailed It!”
The first showed a cartoon image of what appeared to be a deer, leaning over and comforting a tearful fox.
Mr Rees said: “At 9.15pm, he (the boy’s father) sends Paktia a sticker. One animal comforting a fox which has its head in its hands.
“And then, the second is sent, a minute after that first one, again to Paktia. It is a sticker which features a young lady in it with the motif ‘Nailed It!’.”
Jurors have been told by the prosecution that Cech and Pulko’s mobile phones had both been “manually reset to factory settings” before being seized by police.
The trial continues.