A Black Country couple neglected and killed a three-year-old boy after being asked to look after him by his mother in the run-up to Christmas, a murder trial jury has been told.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Ryan Lovell-Hancox died in hospital on Christmas Eve 2008, two days after suffering a brain injury at the Bilston home of Christopher Taylor and Kayley Boleyn.

Taylor, 25, and Boleyn, 19, both deny the murder of Ryan, blaming each other for what happened to him.

Opening the case against the pair, prosecutor Christopher Hotten QC said Ryan was in the care of the defendants after the boy's mother, Amy Hancox, asked Boleyn to look after him for a weekly payment.

Mr Hotten said of the defendants: "They accepted Ryan Lovell-Hancox into their care and over a period of some weeks, we say together they neglected, abused and beat him."

The Crown alleges that Ryan's death was caused by an assault which took place at the defendants' bedsit in Slim Avenue, Bilston, on December 22 2008.

Ryan, who was found to have 54 separate marks of injury when he was taken to hospital, is alleged to have been in the care of the defendants for the previous three or four weeks.

Explaining the circumstances which led to Ryan living at the defendants' bedsit, Mr Hotten told jurors that Miss Hancox was struggling to cope with the demands of single-parenthood.

Mr Hotten told the jury: "Some time around November or perhaps the very beginning of December 2008, the arrangement appears to have been for Kayley and Christopher to look after Ryan at Slim Avenue until Christmas.

"In return Amy was to give Kayley a sum of money each week. One says £20, the other says £40, and a contribution towards food, gas and electric bills."

The court heard that it was also agreed that Miss Hancox would visit Ryan each day, although she subsequently failed to visit him for two or three days at a time.

The jury has been told that Boleyn, who also denies child cruelty, has pleaded guilty to allowing Ryan's death.

Taylor denies child cruelty and causing or allowing Ryan's death.

Both defendants initially claimed Ryan had hit his head after falling in the bath, but the court heard they later changed their accounts in police interviews.

Ryan was taken to Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital and then transferred to Birmingham Children's Hospital after paramedics were called to the bedsit at about 10.25pm on December 22.

Describing the defendants' accounts at the time of the incident, Mr Hotten told the jury: "At this very early stage, both Kayley Boleyn and Christopher Taylor were telling the same story.

"Both were telling, we say, the same lie."

The trial, which is expected to last for up to four weeks, was adjourned until Wednesday.