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Folkestone careworker Paul Marsh on trial for manslaughter of Jessica Dalgleish, 3

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A man accused of killing a child in a fit of rage after she didn't eat her lunch has told of the moment he discovered the injured three-year-old.

The 27-year-old residential home worker said Jessica Dalgleish had gone up the stairs while he was distracted.

Paul Marsh is accused of killing Jessica Dalgleish Stock picture
Paul Marsh is accused of killing Jessica Dalgleish Stock picture

"I heard a thud... then another," he told a jury at Maidstone Crown Court.

Paul Marsh said he found Jessica slumped behind the bannister near the stairs and carried her to a sofa where he checked if she was still breathing.

He alerted Jessica's mother and dialled 999 but said he didn't know what had happened.

"I was scared," he added.

Jessica was airlifted from Folkestone to King's College Hospital in London but died days later from her fatal brain injuries.

Marsh was arrested at the hospital and told police: "This will ruin me."

Dressed in a black suit he told the court that since the incident he had lost his job and friends after appearing in news articles and his mental health had suffered.

He added that he feared his arrest would affect his job prospects in the care industry.

Marsh told Maidstone Crown Court how Jessica would often climb on the stairs.

He claimed the victim's mother wasn't strict with discipline and he struggled to deal with Jessica's misbehaviour.

"I was stern. But it wasn't my place to discipline them. I raised my voice but I never screamed or shouted.

'You know there was no mystery because you had caused the injuries...'

"And I never got in her face or smacked the child. I never dragged her and I never got angry. I may have said she needed a slap on the legs but I never did. I just wanted her mother to be a little more stern," he said.

Marsh, of Sandgate, Folkestone , denies manslaughter and cruelty to a child in December 2019.

He told the jury that he was born in Dover and raised in Hythe before landing a job at a residential home.

Marsh told how the child's mother described Jessica as "The Devil incarnate" in a text message because of her behaviour. She would bang her head against the wall and received bruises from running into furniture, he claimed.

The youngster was taken to the William Harvey Hospital earlier in December with injuries - but Marsh denied he caused them.

His barrister Oliver Saxby QC: "Were you assaulting her and explaining the bruises by saying she was banging her head?"

He replied: "No, not at all."

But Marsh said in hindsight he was struggling to cope with her but said a text message to her mother when he said he would kill her was "just a figure of speech".

He said he spoke with the child's mother because he wanted to get his frustrations off his chest" and "she was the only person I could do that to."

He denied calling another child a "cross-eyed t***"

Prosecutor Jennifer Knight QC said Marsh told the mother there was nothing wrong with Jessica when she found mystery bruises on her in the weeks before her death.

She said: "You know there was no mystery because you had caused the injuries."

He denied it.

The jury previously heard Marsh does not have "a violent bone in his body".

Mr Saxby made a 45-minute long address before calling evidence.

Mr Saxby said that rather than killing the child in "a fit of temper", Marsh didn't " have a violent bone in his body."

A Home Office pathologist said Jessica's fatal injuries had not been caused by her tumbling down stairs.

Dr Nathaniel Cary said her head was fractured, causing bleeding on her brain.

Dr Cary said children dying after falling down stairs is "vanishly rare."

He added Jessica's head injuries would usually be seen in a road traffic accident or after a fall from at least a storey.

But Dr Patrick Cartledge - a paediatric expert - disagreed and told the court: "The fatal injury could have been caused by a fall down a flight of stairs."

Marsh, from Sandgate, was arrested at hospital and after his release telephoned Jessica's mother telling her the police had "nothing on me".

She alleged: "He told me his mother and father had got him a top lawyer... the Duke of Sussex's lawyer or something. I then commented that he hadn't asked about Jess. He then asked me."

On December 24, Jessica's life support machine was turned off.

The trial continues.

To read more of our in depth coverage of all of the major trials coming out of crown and magistrates' courts across the county, click here.

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