A MAN accused of biting and battering a 17-month-old toddler has denied hurting the child and said that all of the injuries were accidental.

The 36-year-old, of Bridport, was in a relationship with the baby’s mother in the months before the child was taken into care with 18 separate areas of bruising on his head, arms, legs and shoulder.

He described the toddler as throwing himself around ‘like a whirlwind’ and said he would rather ‘rip my heart out and stamp on it before I would hurt that boy'.

He denied leaving a bite mark on the child’s shoulder an gave different explanations for all if the injuries during a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

The mother, aged 25, formerly of Seaton but now living in Mid Devon, and her former partner, aged 36, of Bridport, both deny child cruelty or neglect.

The prosecution say the boy suffered a series of injuries during the two months before doctors at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital raised the alarm and the child was taken into emergency foster care.

The child had a bite mark on his shoulder, marks on his cheeks which may have been caused by his mouth being forced open, and bruises on his body, legs and arms.

Parents at a play group were so alarmed by the bruises that one of them alerted the NSPCC a week before the injuries were categorized as non-accidental during the hospital visit.

Ms Nikki Coombe, prosecuting, said the injuries were inflicted by the boyfriend and the case against the mother is that she failed to protect her child from him or report what was happening.

The injuries were discovered in January 2018, shortly after the couple had moved to Seaton in East Devon from Dorset.

Mothers at a playgroup had noticed a large bruise on the child’s face in November 2017 which was clearly visible in a photo by the mother on Instagram.

The mother’s boyfriend denied causing any of the injuries deliberately during a series of police interviews. He said the boy had fallen down the stairs and hit a skirting board, fallen out of bed onto a table, and bumped against furniture while running around.

He said:”He used to tumble around and hit things. He is a happy-go-lucky whirlwind who throws himself around. When he went down the stairs, he would get over-excited near the bottom and lose concentration and let go and land on his head.

“Two times he hit the skirting board and the injury to his shoulder was caused by him bumping himself on the desk. He was under it and I heard a thump.

“He went on being the happy-go-lucky self and I didn’t even think to check under his clothing. My partner only noticed the bruise when she was changing him.

“I wanted to be the best dad I could for him. I never bit him. I would rip my heart out and stamp on it before I would hurt that boy.”

The mother told police she believed the explanations and had no suspicion that her partner was hurting the child deliberately. She said she tried to do the best for her son at all times.