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Tattoo artist father is convicted of murdering his two-year-old boy

Footage has emerged of a two-year-old boy playing happily after his father was convicted of murdering him just days after he was given custody of his son.

Daniel Hardcastle, 31, was found guilty of murdering Damion Russell at the flat they shared in Blackpool in August last year.

Following his conviction at Preston Crown Court, Lancashire Police released a video which showed clips of Damion smiling and laughing as he played on the swings and slides in a children’s park before he was killed by the tattoo artist.

Damion was rushed to hospital on August 19, 2023, after suffering horrendous injuries including a forceful adult human bite mark to his upper right thigh, as well as fractured ribs and bruising across his body. He died two days later.

Throughout the trial, Hardcastle tried to paint a picture of a devoted dad who fought the family court system to take sole care of his much-loved son, claiming the youngster had injured himself after falling and hitting his head on a coffee table.

But the jury took less than two hours to find the killer unanimously guilty after hearing how he had started drinking more in the days and weeks before the assault and isolated himself from his support network.

Damion Russell (pictured) was rushed to hospital on August 19, 2023, after suffering horrendous injuries including a forceful adult human bite mark to his upper right thigh

Damion Russell (pictured) was rushed to hospital on August 19, 2023, after suffering horrendous injuries including a forceful adult human bite mark to his upper right thigh

Daniel Hardcastle (pictured) was found guilty of murdering Damion at the flat they shared in Blackpool in August last year

Daniel Hardcastle (pictured) was found guilty of murdering Damion at the flat they shared in Blackpool in August last year

Lancashire Police released a video which showed clips of Damion smiling and laughing as he played on the swings and slides in a children's park before he was killed by the tattoo artist

Lancashire Police released a video which showed clips of Damion smiling and laughing as he played on the swings and slides in a children’s park before he was killed by the tattoo artist

They also heard that two nights before he assaulted Damion, Hardcastle spent all night chatting to a woman he had met online and left the child alone in the flat to visit local shops to buy alcohol.

Hardcastle admitted he had bitten his son, hard enough to leave teeth marks on the toddler’s thigh, but claimed he was ‘playing rough’ with Damion.

He also said Damion was a clumsy tot and had collided with a coffee table while playing with his toys in the living room.

A pathologist found the extensive injuries suffered by the little boy were inconsistent with that claim.

When emergency services arrived at the flat on August 19, they were met by Hardcastle, who was bare chested and had blood on his face. He had called 999 and was attempting CPR.

Damion’s blood-soaked clothing was found in the kitchen bin and Hardcastle was attempting to clean Damion’s faeces from the sofa.

The child was rushed to hospital after suffering cardiac and respiratory arrest after Hardcastle inflicted injuries ‘from head to toe’ on his defenceless son on August 19 last year. 

The court also heard that there was also a tear to the inside of his lip as if a drinking bottle had been forced into his mouth.

Two days after the attack, Damion’s life support was withdrawn and he died in Manchester Children’s Hospital.

As the jury foreman delivered the verdict, Damion cast his eyes to the ceiling. He will be sentenced at Preston Crown Court at 2pm on Thursday.

Mrs Justice Hill thanked the jury for their care and patience when considering the difficult case.

Damion's life support was withdrawn and he died in Manchester Children's Hospital on August 21, 2023.

Damion’s life support was withdrawn and he died in Manchester Children’s Hospital on August 21, 2023. 

Footage has been released of Damion playing happily after his father was convicted of murdering him

Footage has been released of Damion playing happily after his father was convicted of murdering him

The court heard that Damion (pictured) had been left alone in the flat while Hardcastle went to the local shops to buy alcohol in the days before his death

The court heard that Damion (pictured) had been left alone in the flat while Hardcastle went to the local shops to buy alcohol in the days before his death 

She said due to the distressing details heard during the trial, all members of the jury would be discharged from jury duty for the rest of their life.

Det Sup Al Davies, of the Force Major Investigation Team, said: ‘First and foremost my thoughts today are with Damion’s loved ones. Like any young child Damion had the right to be loved and cherished by the man who should have done everything he could to protect him. 

‘Instead, he found himself subjected to a horrifically violent and sustained assault which caused the injuries which sadly led to his death.

‘Only Daniel Hardcastle can say exactly what happened on that fateful day or why he did what he did, but this was no childhood accident that ended in tragedy. 

‘The nature and extent of the fatal injuries, deliberately inflicted by Hardcastle were done with intent to cause at least really serious harm and were the direct cause of Damion’s tragic death.’