A ‘callous and cowardly’ killer who murdered his innocent 23-month old stepdaughter after subjecting her to months of physical abuse has been sentenced to 19 years behind bars.
Martin Johnson, aged 20, was yesterday found guilty of the murder of Sheffield toddler Erin Tomkins at the home he shared with her, her mother and her younger sister in Gleadless last May.
In a three-week long trial, the court heard that in the three months Johnson had lived with the family, the toddler suffered a broken arm, multiple back fractures and 27 separate bruises.
Throughout the trial, he sought to partly blame both the injuries and Erin’s death on her mother Kira, but it took the jury less than two hours to reach unanimous verdicts on all three counts – one of murder and two of grievous bodily harm.
Speaking outside court, Erin’s mum said the family were pleased that justice had been done.
She said: “Our family would like to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this ordeal. South Yorkshire Police and the legal team at court have never stopped fighting for Erin.
“Erin was the most beautiful funny little red-haired girl who brought so much joy to our lives and she will be loved and missed every day.”
Earlier, in a victim impact statement read out in court, Kira asked ‘why did he have to kill my beautiful girl?’
“Erin should not have been in a position where she was scared to be in her own home,” she said.
“She should have had the opportunity to grow up and live her life but she never even got to start nursery.
“I see her when I close my eyes and that just reminds me of her innocence.”
Kira said the only thing keeping her going was what little contact she had with her other daughter, who will now have to grow up without her sister.
”I don’t know how to explain to her that although she is Martin’s daughter it does not mean she is like him,” she added.
In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Goss said this was a bad case of the act of murder, being as it was at the culmination of several months of ‘gross physical abuse’.
He told Johnson he must have known the damage he had caused when he broke Erin’s arm in March, but that he continued to inflict really serious harm on her and ultimately killed her.
He said: “It is not surprising that Erin’s behaviour changed and she became resistant to your handling of her. She would have been in fear of you.
“When you fractured her right upper arm it would have required considerable force but after that you continued to assault her and ultimately killed her.
“You caused Erin a catastrophic and fatal head injury that rendered her immediately unconscious and culminated in her death 14 hours later when her life support was turned off.”
Judge Goss said that Johnson’s not guilty plea and continued attempts to blame the offences at least in part on Erin’s mother showed his lack of remorse over his serious violent acts.
In sentencing him to life with a minimum term of 19 years, he said as well as his refusal to take responsibility for his actions, Erin’s vulnerability and level of suffering were serious aggravating factors which demanded a lengthy sentence.
If and when he was released, he added, Johnson would remain on licence for the rest of his life.