In the days leading up to her death, a Sheffield toddler would cry and ‘make herself sick’ if she was left alone with the man accused of murdering her, a court heard.
23-month-old, Erin Tompkins, died from a head injury on May 22 last year.
Her step-father, Martin Johnson, 20, is on trial at Sheffield Crown Court, accused of her murder and of two counts of inflicting grievous bodily harm on the tot. The GBH charges relate to fractures Erin suffered to her right arm and spine in the weeks before her death.
Erin’s mother, Kira Tompkins, gave evidence at Sheffield Crown Court today, and told the jury of eight women and four men how at the beginning of her relationship with Johnson, Erin would ‘run towards him with her hands in the air’.
But by the time of her death, Kira said Erin ‘couldn’t be left alone’ with Johnson, and would cry and ‘make herself sick’ if she was.
“She was sick whenever I wasn’t in the room, when it was only Martin that was in the room with her she was sick,” said Kira, aged 19.
Kira said it was only in the week before her death that she began making herself sick when alone with Johnson, but had been crying if she left her for longer than that.
“I put it down to the terrible twos,” she said.
Prosecutor, David Brooke QC, asked her how Johnson, of Leighton Road, Gleadless Valley reacted to Erin behaving as she had described.
She said: “He would ask: ‘Why doesn’t she like me?' and it would seem a bit like he was angry with me.”
The jury was told that Kira fell pregnant by Johnson soon after the pair began a sexual relationship in April 2017, and their child was born in December of that year.
Johnson, who worked as a chef, moved in with her the following month.
Kira said Johnson had ‘accused’ her of ‘loving Erin more’ than their child, and said he thought Erin was ‘her favourite’.
She described how on Saturday, May 19 (three days before Erin’s death) the pair had gone to a wedding together; and said the night had ended in a drunken argument during which he kicked her on her tailbone and attempted to strangle her twice.
Kira said it was the only time Johnson had become physical with her, adding that because she was drunk she could not remember how the argument started, but recalled saying derogatory things about his grandmother in the heat of the moment.
Erin fractured her arm around 10 weeks before her death when she was left alone with Johnson, and Kira said he told her the injury happened when she fell off the sofa as he was changing her nappy.
Kira said there were a number of instances when Erin suffered injuries when Johnson was alone with her, one of which resulted in a large bruise to her cheek.
“He asked me to tell my mum and stepdad that she did it when we were both there because he felt judged by them,” said Kira, adding that she told her mother what had really happened and sent her a picture of the bruise, which was presented to the jury in evidence this afternoon.
After the injury to her cheek, Kira said Johnson brought Erin up to the bath, where she was when Erin suffered the injury.
“She was crying and lifting her arms up like she wanted to get to me...she had a large bruise on her cheekbone,” said Kira.
Kira said Johnson told her that the bruise was caused when Erin fell off the sofa.
“Did you accept that,” asked Mr Brooke.
She replied: “Yeah, because my reasoning was: if she can break her arm from falling off the sofa, then that could happen.”
Kira said she also noticed bruising to Erin’s forehead in the days before her death, and when she asked Johnson about it he said the toddler suffered the bruising after tripping and falling while he was with her.
When Mr Brooke opened the case yesterday, 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 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.”
Under cross examination, Bryan Cox QC, representing Johnson, asked Kira whether she had ever been ‘violent,’ ‘angry' or ‘aggressive’ with Erin or her other child, to which she replied ‘no’.
Mr Cox asked Kira about the medication she had taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The court was told that Kira had taken the medication since the age of 14, except for when she was pregnant and breast feeding, and had gone back on it in March last year when her second child was around four-months-old.
“Did you go back on it because there was a deterioration in your ADHD symptoms,” asked Mr Cox, to which Kira replied: “No, I went back on it because it helps me to concentrate.”
Mr Cox added: “It had a greater purpose than that, it affected your behaviour...did you not go back on it to reduce your anger?”
“No,” said Kira.
Referring to Johnson’s attitude towards his child and his stepdaughter, Mr Cox said: “He didn’t distinguish between the two; he didn’t treat one better than the other.”
Kira replied: “I think it’s obvious that that’s not true.”
Johnson denies all charges.
The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.