Sheffield toddler murder trial: Mum tells jury she never hurt daughter and says defendant was alone with her in the hours before her death

The mum of a Sheffield toddler who died of a head injury says she never hurt her, and says the first time she saw the tot on the day she suffered her fatal injury was after she had collapsed.

Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 17:17 pm
Updated Wednesday, 23rd January 2019, 17:23 pm
Erin Tomkins died of head injuries

Erin Tompkins died of a head injury on May 22 last year, when she was just 23-months-old. 

Her step-father, Martin Johnson, 20, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court, accused of murdering her and of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the tot twice in the weeks leading up to her death. He denies all charges. 

Martin Johnson, 20, denies murdering Erin Tomkins on May last year

Kira Tomkins, mother to Erin and a second child fathered by Johnson, continued her evidence at court today. 

Bryan Cox QC, representing Johnson, asked Kira: “Did you ever hurt Erin,” to which she replied: “No.”

He added: “Did you do anything to Erin on the May morning [when she suffered her fatal injuries]?”

19-year-old Kira responded: “No.”

“Are you sure about that,” asked Mr Cox.

“Yes,” said Kira. 

Mr Cox continued: “So it was a complete surprise when she collapsed?”

 

 

“Yes, I had just opened my eyes,” said Kira. 

On Tuesday, Kira told the court that she awoke on the morning of May 21 to Johnson, of Leighton Road, Gleadless shouting her from downstairs to tell her Erin had stopped breathing, before bringing the toddler up to her bedroom.  

When prosecutor, David Brooke QC, asked her about Johnson’s demeanour when he brought her upstairs, Kira said: “He didn’t seem that reactive. He walked calmly into the room, His body looked a bit more calm but his face had a different look..like maybe he was scared.”  

The jury of eight women and four men have been told that Erin broke her arm around 10 weeks before her death when Johnson was looking after her alone; and the tot also suffered a large bruise to her cheek around a month later when she was alone with Johnson. 

Kira says that on both occasions Johnson told her the injuries were caused when Erin fell off the sofa. 

Referring to the incident in which Erin bruised her cheek, Mr Cox said: “I suggest that on that occasion Martin wasn’t there.”

Kira said: “He was there, he was the only one with her when it happened.”

Mr Cox added: “I suggest to you that at no stage did Martin tell you to tell your mother you were both present when it happened.”

She replied: “I couldn’t lie to my mum.”

The court heard how Kira voluntarily had a second interview with the police on May 23 last year after she received information about Erin’s cause of death, during which officers said people had been saying she was ‘defending and supporting’ Johnson. 

In the first interview Kira did not link Erin being sick in the days before her death to Johnson, but she told them in the second interview she believed it was to do with her ‘anxiety’ about being with Johnson. 

She told officers she wanted the second interview so she could pass on any information that may be useful, adding: “I didn’t want people to think it was a one-off if it’s not.”

 

When police asked her how she felt about Erin’s death and Martin’s subsequent arrest, Kira responded: “I feel sad, it makes me feel like why didn’t I know...I feel like I should have known that Erin didn’t want him around her. I feel like she’s been scared all this time.”

Kira’s mother, Karen Croad, was brought before the court to give evidence this afternoon.

She told the jury she believed Kira was a good mother, and said there was nothing about the way Johnson interacted with the children that gave her cause for concern. 

Mr Brooke asked Karen whether she ever witnessed Kira and Johnson arguing, and she said she recalled one occasion in particular. 

“I can’t remember what the argument was about, they weren’t screaming, but there were raised voices,” said Karen, adding: “All I can remember is him saying something about Erin being her favourite child...I didn’t want to get in the middle but just thought it wasn’t a very nice thing to say.”

When Mr Brooke opened the case on Monday, January 21, he told the jury that Erin’s post-mortem showed that in addition to evidence of a fractured right arm, the toddler had also suffered spinal fractures.

He said a report prepared by Professor Mangham of Manchester University and Manchester Royal Infirmary suggested it was ‘unlikely’ Erin’s fractured arm had been caused by her falling off the sofa due to it being a ‘spiral fracture’ which means it had a ‘twisting component to the causative force’. 

Prof Mangham’s report dated Erin’s ‘complete’ spinal fractures as being between five to 10 weeks old. 

Mr Brooke said: “The complete fractures indicate that the fractures were severe, and the force considerable.” 

During her cross-examination today, Mr Cox asked Kira whether she ever noticed Erin suffering from back problems, to which she replied: ‘No’. 

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