A MAN accused of mistreating a boy by breaking wind in his face and sucking his eye has told a jury: "I would never do anything intentionally to hurt a kid."

Gary McKenzie is said to have been "cruel and bullying" towards the youngster by also punching him in the arm, and to have smothered another child with a pillow.

McKenzie, from Darlington, is on trial at Teesside Crown Court where he denies four separate charges of cruelty - and his defence case began today (Fri, Oct 21) on the third day.

The 22-year-old roofer described the acts alleged against him as "very sick" and said: "It would be odd behaviour, weird. It's not suitable. It's awful, it's foul."

McKenzie told the jury of eight men and three women how he first heard about the complaints when he was at work, and he got a telephone call from his father.

"He said the police needed to have a word with me," he said. "I had no idea what it was about, but he said I had been accused of assaulting the children.

"I got straight off the roof, straight down the leaders and went straight to the police station for a voluntary interview. I wasn't arrested. I went there myself."

Defence barrister Jonathan Walker asked McKenzie a series of questions during his evidence, and described the allegations against him as "disgusting and disgraceful".

Prosecutor Paul Abrahams put it to him that there had been "a pattern of irresponsible cruelty and bullying behaviour" but he replied: "I would not bully a child."

Mr Walker asked: "Did you ever overstep the mark and deliberately assault anyone." McKenzie answered: "No, never. I would never do that to a kid. Never, ever."

McKenzie, of Beaumont Hill, Darlington, admitted that he had once broken wind in front of the boy's face accidentally, which he said the lad found funny.

He went on to dispute further claims that he had once exposed his bottom and on another occasion his penis, saying to the child: "Would you like one this big?"

The trial continues.