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8 February 2019, 15:16
A father accused of plotting an acid attack on his three-year-old son has denied in court handing a small bottle to his co-accused in a pub car park just hours before the incident.
The 40-year-old is on trial accused of conspiring with five other men and a woman to throw sulphuric acid on the boy in a shop attack, between June 1 and July 22, with intent to do harm.
The youngster, 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.
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.
The Crown have alleged the father planned the attack in a bid to show his estranged wife was an "unfit" mother, after she walked out on him with the children in 2016.
The father is facing the same charge as co-accused Adam Cech, 27, of Farnham Road, Birmingham, Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham and 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, are also on trial.
All deny any wrongdoing.
Giving evidence in his defence for the second day, the father told jurors he paid a total of £1,180, in two instalments, to Paktia for "private investigators" to "follow" his wife.
He denied having anything to do with harming his son.
The man was asked by a co-accused's barrister in court: "Did you give Norbert Pulko, the man you met, a small white plastic bottle?"
The father replied: "No, never."
Turning to events leading up to the attack, the father said he had spoken on the phone to Hussini - who he met through ex-work colleague Paktia - about having his wife followed, in a conversation on July 12.
He told the jury: "He (Hussini) said 'your wife was not looking normal, I think she was using some kind of drugs - do you want me to follow her?'"
The victim's father agreed Hussini and his "private investigators" - allegedly including Pulko - could "start their work", the court heard.
Speaking through a Dari interpreter, the father, originally from Afghanistan, also claimed he had never met or spoken to Pulko.
When asked why phone records showed that five days before the attack, two calls had been made between his and Pulko's phone, he claimed Paktia had made them.
He said: "He was calling somebody and said that person would not answer, so asked if he could use my phone."
The father was then asked why his car had been sighted travelling "in convoy" with Pulko's Vauxhall Astra on the day of what the prosecution claimed was an "aborted" first attempted acid attack at Worcester.
He alleged it was Paktia driving his car that day.
Asked why, he replied: "He said to me that Saied Hussini was in Worcester so he was going to pick him up."
He accepted meeting Hussini and Paktia in Wolverhampton later that day where he paid them £680 cash, including £180 extra because they had to work until 7.30pm on that day.
The father said he also handed over another £500 to Paktia for what he described in court as "private investigation", after meeting up in Birmingham, hours after the Home Bargains attack had taken place.
"I gave the money to Jabar (Paktia) and he said he was going to give it to the private investigators."
He was also asked about a meeting in the car park of the Blackpole Inn, in Worcester, on July 21 - the day of the shop attack.
The father said: "I had an arrangement with Paktia that the next day we would meet with a lady who works for social services and Saied Hussini.
"The lady (was) Martina Badiova."
He added that he had taken family documents and £600 cash to pay "social services" worker Badiova, but when he parked up at the pub, neither she nor Hussini were there.
"A man who was white-skinned, he came close to my car," he said.
"He told me to give him the money."
But instead the father "drove away" because he "did not know him".
Later, Cech's barrister Andrew Copeland asked if the father had "seen that person since", to which he replied "no".
The defence barrister then asked: "If I suggest to you it was Norbert Pulko, your co-defendant, what do you say to that?"
Through the interpreter, the father replied: "I don't remember."