A Sheffield man who ‘brutally cut short’ his young stepdaughter’s life has been condemned by the NSPCC.
The charity urged people to speak out if they had any concerns about a child’s welfare, after Martin Johnson was today found guilty of murdering 23-month old Erin Tomkins.
Johnson, 20, of Leighton Road, Gleadless Valley, was found guilty at Sheffield Crown Court of murder and two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent.
He was this afternoon given a life sentence and told he will serve at least 19 years behind bars.
An NSPCC spokesman said: “Johnson’s brutality cruelly cut short the life of little Erin, who endured horrendous physical abuse at the hands of a man who should have protected her.
“Babies and young children are completely dependent upon the adults who care for them and Johnson horrifically disregarded that responsibility with tragically fatal consequences.
“We all have a duty to look out for children’s welfare and anyone concerned about a child can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 at any time, free of charge. If a child is in immediate danger, please call 999.”
Johnson has denied murdering Erin, instead blaming the girl’s grieving mother for the awful injuries she sustained, but the jury took only around two hours to find him guilty on all counts.
But jurors at Sheffield Crown Court this morning took just over an hour-and-a-half to find Johnson, who police said had shown no remorse for his crimes, guilty on all three charges.
The officer in charge of the case today branded the actions of Johnson, who is due to be sentenced this afternoon, 'quite abhorrent’.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Whittaker, for whom this was his last case before he retires next week, said: “This is a man who’s shown absolutely no remorse whatsoever and been in total denial.
“To make it even worse, he tried to blame Erin’s mother for this awful, awful crime.
“It’s one of the worst crimes I’ve witnessed in almost 32 years of policing.
“It’s a man who’s tried to blame everybody except himself.
“We’re happy with the verdict. Hopefully this will bring a little bit of closure for the family.
Erin died of severe head injuries at Sheffield Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, May 22, having been taken there for treatment the previous day.
The court heard how the ‘savage’ attack which claimed her life was not the first time she had been seriously assaulted by Johnson, who had previously broken her arm, fractured her back and left her body covered with bruises.
DCI Whittaker said: “This is a man who came into this little girl’s life and five months later she was dead. He moved into the house and three months later she was dead.
“This is a man who took it on himself to break this little girl’s arm and when he presented at the hospital said she’d fallen off the sofa.
“This is a man who at some stage throughout that time caused the girl to have four back fractures. This is a man responsible for 27 bruises on that little girl and then finally went on to kill this girl while she was with her sister in the house downstairs while the mum slept upstairs in bed.
“This is a man who’s been quite abhorrent throughout.”
DCI Whittaker told how the case had been ‘very distressing’ for Erin’s mother, who has another daughter and for Erin’s grandmother, who he said had ‘been in pieces’ throughout.
He praised the painstaking work by police and leading pathologists and neuroscientists to help bring Erin’s killer to justice.
“It’s been a difficult case to prove who’s responsible but through some careful police work and work by eminent pathologists and neurosurgeons we could prove this child became immediately unwell after this savage attack,” he said.
“No matter what he tried to throw down for the jury in terms of smokescreens and red herrings, the jury, after an hour-and-a-half saw through his lies….
“My heart and condolences go out to the family and I hope this verdict brings them a little bit of closure.”