The father of a three-year-old boy who was murdered by his mother's partner has said he will remember his son as a child who was "always smiling and laughing".
Darren Darby said Nathanial Pope and Alicia Watson had both told lies at their trial, which heard that Kemarni Watson Darby suffered more than 20 rib fractures before his death from abdominal injuries.
Birmingham Crown Court was told that the force used by Pope on Kemarni was similar to that normally caused in a car crash.
Convicted drug dealer Pope, 32, was found guilty of murder in April, following a five-month trial which heard that Kemarni had 34 separate areas of external injuries.
Kemarni's mother, 31-year-old Watson, was cleared of murder but found guilty of causing or allowing his death.
Jurors heard that Watson and Pope, who blamed each other from the witness box, continued to live together for several months after Kemarni died from abdominal injuries in June 2018 when his ribs were “crushed” at their two-bedroom flat in Beaconview Road, West Bromwich.
'He was always smiling and laughing'
In a statement read to a sentencing hearing by a barrister at the same court on Monday, Mr Darby said: "My son Kemarni was an active, fun, boisterous, cheeky young boy.
"He was always smiling and laughing. His life has been cruelly cut short. He had the potential to be so much.
"I will not get to be involved in the key moments of his life.
"Kemarni was loved by so many people, both friends and family. Everyone has been impacted by his death."
'Both Alicia and Nathaniel told lies... I feel deceived by them'
Mr Darby, who is currently studying at university and made his statement two weeks after the trial ended, went on: "We had to wait over three years before we could lay Kemarni to rest because of the criminal inquiry.
"When I first heard the news that Kemarni had died I cannot put into words how I felt.
"As time went on I would be told about the injuries Kemarni had. It didn’t come all at once, it was piece by piece, revelation by revelation.
"Both Alicia and Nathaniel told lies so you can’t be sure what’s truth and what’s fiction. All I feel is anger towards them – I feel deceived by them.
"It’s about coping now – trying to get through each day. When you are in this situation it doesn’t seem real."
'It’s a true life sentence for me and my family'
Mr Darby said: "There is no coming back from this – Kemarni is not coming back."
Both defence barristers offered mitigation to the court after Mr Darby’s statement was read by prosecutor Tony Badenoch QC.
Jonas Hankin QC, representing Pope, submitted that the former warehouse worker’s “truly dreadful” actions, with many aggravating features, should not be viewed in the same category as the “purposeful, systematic and perpetual abuse” seen in some other child murder cases in recent years.
He said: “The fatal violence, grievous and brutal that it must have been, was not obviously dangerous to life.”
Watson’s QC, Charles Sherrard, said: "No matter what the court does, she has lost everything.
"Of course the jury’s verdicts demonstrated that she is culpable in that loss.
"She will come out (of prison) to a family that is understandably split between some that remain supportive and those that will always understandably remain extremely critical.
"The effect on her mental health is significant. She is perhaps in a very dark place and may never come out of it."
Pope, of Wolverhampton, and Watson, of Handsworth, Birmingham, will be sentenced by Mrs Justice Tipples on Tuesday.