A FATHER who plotted a ‘cowardly’ acid attack on his three-year-old son during a custody battle had previously discussed killing his wife and children, a court heard.

The 40-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was said to be the driving force behind the attack at Home Bargains in the Shrub Hill retail park in Tallow Hill, Worcester, as the prosecution opened the case at the city’s crown court today.

The father, an Afghan national, and his six co-defendants all deny conspiracy to apply a corrosive fluid with intent to burn, maim, disfigure or disable the boy or do him grievous bodily harm.

The toddler was said to have been squirted with sulphuric acid while out shopping with his mum and siblings on Saturday, July 21 last year shortly after 2pm. The other defendants are Adam Cech, aged 27, of Farnham Road, Birmingham who was said to have squirted the acid; Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham; Jabar Paktia, 42, of New Hampton Road, Wolverhampton; Norbert Pulko, aged 22, of Sutherland Road, London; Saied Hussini, 42, of Wrottesley Road, London; and Martina Badiova, 22, of Newcombe Road, Birmingham.

The jury was told that the father had previously spoken to an Imam about killing his family and that the boy had also been targeted just over a week earlier on Friday, July 13 last year when three of the defendants had spent hours loitering outside a Worcester primary school.

Jonathan Rees QC said: “This case concerns a cowardly attack on a defenceless three-year-old boy in which he was squirted with a solution of sulphuric acid.”

The boy suffered acid burns to his left forearm and forehead and was treated in hospital although has since made ‘a good recovery’.

“The assault itself was carried out by the second defendant, Adam Cech. It was over almost in the blink of the eye and may have gone undetected were it not for the fact it was captured on the shop’s internal CCTV system,” said Mr Rees.

Mr Rees said the evidence also suggested that Pulko, Hussini and Badiova had spent hours loitering near a city school and that Pulko had followed the mother and children while holding an object of some sort in his hands although, perhaps because other people were present, no attack was carried out. A CCTV camera was said to have recorded Pulko following the family.

The court heard how the father's wife had left him and issued divorce proceedings although he was seeking greater access to his children which she opposed. Mr Rees told the jury that the father’s desire to show his wife in a bad light may have provided some of his motivation in organising the attack. The case is that he enlisted the support of two fellow Afghans who acted as ‘middle men’ between the father and four people from the Czech and Slovak community. Mr Rees said the defendant’s wife had previously left him but returned only for him to accuse her of ‘humiliating him in front of his people and his family.’

“He indicated he had only been upset because he had been separated from his children and that she meant nothing to him” said Mr Rees.

In 2012 he discussed with an Imam ‘whether he was allowed to kill his wife and his children according to his religion but was told he could not do that and was advised to pray instead.’

Mr Rees added: “In the same vein, he threatened to take the children outside the UK to a Muslim country and have them killed. He said he would do this because he would not get into trouble if he did it in a Muslim country.”

Mr Rees said: “The prosecution suggest that the threats he made about having his children killed help provide an answer to one of the questions which arise in this case: what sort of a father can contemplate deliberately injuring one of his children.”

His wife left him for good in 2016 and during supervised contact with his children he was observed taking photos of an injury to the nose of one of his children, claiming he did not believe the explanation about how it had happened and claimed another injury was caused by his wife with a hot spoon.

The prosecution argue this was the father’s attempt to manufacture evidence to suggest his wife was an ‘unfit mother’.

Mr Rees also told the jury that the father had hired a private investigator to carry out surveillance on his wife and children.

“He claimed that he was worried about his children because he had been told by friends that his wife had been seen with an unknown male and female when she had the children with her. “He said he was concerned, and that it was a matter of honour in his culture to know with whom his wife was associating” said Mr Rees.

The evidence is expected to include call data records, information related to phone masts and automatic number plate recognition devices showing the movements and alleged contact between the alleged conspirators including ‘reconnaissance missions’ to the child’s home.

The trial continues.