An “arrogant and selfish” father has been found guilty of plotting an acid attack on his three-year-old son during a bitter custody battle with his wife.
The parent and five others defendants were all convicted by a jury of conspiring to throw sulphuric acid with intent to “burn, maim or disfigure” the boy in July last year.
A seventh defendant, 23-year-old Martina Badiova, of Handsworth, Birmingham, was cleared of the same charge.
On hearing the verdict against him, the father rubbed his face with his hand.
A six-week trial at Worcester Crown Court was told the youngster, who cannot be identified due to his age, suffered serious injuries to his face and arm at a Home Bargains store in the city.
The Crown alleged the 40-year-old father, stung by his wife walking out on him in 2016, enlisted others to attack his son, in a bid to win more contact with the child by showing his mother was unfit to care for him.
Giving evidence earlier in the trial, the mother, who cannot be identified, said of her estranged husband: “Whenever he became angry, he couldn’t control himself.”
She also said he threatened to kill her and the children if she ever left again, and had asked an imam about the subject, after she previously left the father in 2012.
Jurors unanimously convicted the father – who cannot be named to protect his son’s identity – on Wednesday, after nine hours, alongside the five other men.
Among those also found guilty of the conspiracy were Adam Cech, 27, of Farnham Road, Birmingham, Jan Dudi, 25, of Cranbrook Road, Birmingham, and Norbert Pulko, 22, of Sutherland Road, London.
All three men were captured on CCTV at the scene of the attack, after following the boy and his mother to the store from their home in a Vauxhall Vectra.
The attack happened at 2.16pm on Saturday July 21, when Cech approached the child and squirted acid at him from a small plastic medicine-type bottle.
Jurors heard the injured boy repeatedly screamed “I hurt, I hurt”, after he was sprayed.
Footage then showed the three men calmly making their escape – Pulko even stopping at the tills to purchase two items.
The attack followed what prosecutors claimed had been an “aborted attack” at a school eight days earlier.
During that incident, Pulko, and 43-year-old Saied Hussini, of Wrottesley Road, London, were seen by neighbours loitering in the area.
CCTV footage later showed Pulko, with an object held in his hand, approaching the child, who was walking with his mother, before he veered away without incident.
Pulko and middle-man Jabar Paktia, 42, of New Hampton Road, Wolverhampton, who introduced the father to Hussini, were also convicted of the same charge.
Hussini, who is believed to have tested the strength of the acid on his arm before the attack, was also found guilty of the same charge.
He had claimed the father had been willing to pay £3,000 to carry out the job.
Hussini also alleged the father, Paktia and and Hussini all went to meet Pulko, and it was Pulko who first suggested using acid.
A feature of the trial was the “markedly cut-throat” defences, Judge Robert Juckes QC, said.
Cech claimed in court that he had been threatened with a BB gun by Pulko to squirt the victim and did not know acid was inside the bottle.
When he was convicted, Cech – who had attacked the boy – put his head in his hands, and looked at the floor.
The father, from Wolverhampton but originally from Afghanistan, had denied even knowing Pulko, despite being caught on CCTV meeting and “handing over acid” in a pub car park the day of the attack.
He also claimed to have only hired Hussini and Paktia as “private investigators”, while Dudi alleged he was just there to watch the mother – and no more.
Hussini claimed he only went along with the scheme in a bid to divert the father from the attack – implicating the boy’s parent – but the jury also rejected his account.
Patkia and Pulko did not give evidence, while Badiova alleged she took part in the “aborted” incident believing she was only there to make another man’s boyfriend jealous.
At the start of the trial, prosecutor Jonathan Rees QC, told the court: “The evidence suggests that in an effort to ensure his (family contact) application was successful (the father) was willing to manufacture evidence of injuries to his children.”
Mr Rees said: “His mother was a short distance away as the attack is carried out. He was shouting and crying and ran towards his mother holding his left arm.”
The child suffered a 10cm burn injury to his left forearm, and a 3cm burn on his forehead, which needed specialist hospital treatment, but has since made a good recovery.
A jury of seven women and five men was told that an observant neighbour spotted activity near a school during the aborted attack on July 13, taking photos of Hussini, and Pulko.