Sheffield toddler murder trial: Jury told tot ‘died from head injuries’ and was assaulted on ‘at least one previous occasion’

A forensic pathologist has concluded that a Sheffield toddler died as a result of head injuries; had bruising likely to have been caused by knuckles and had been assaulted on at least one other occasion prior to her death.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:24 am
Updated Thursday, 31st January 2019, 8:28 am
Erin Tomkins died of head injuries

Erin Tompkins died in the early hours of May 22 last year, when she was just 23-months-old. 

Her step-father, Martin Johnson, is accused of murdering Erin, and of inflicting grievous bodily harm on her on two occasions prior to her death.

The GBH charges relate to fractures Erin suffered to her right arm and her spine in the weeks before her death. Johnson denies all charges.

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Consultant Forensic Pathologist, Dr Charles Wilson, gave evidence at Sheffield Crown Court this morning. 

He told the jury of eight women and four men he had concluded that the tot died as a ‘result of head injuries’ in a medical report submitted to the court. 

“She had been subjected to multiple blows to the head, and had blows to the trunk [torso] and had skeletal fractures that were healing. 

The assault that led to her death was not an isolated incident, and she had been assaulted on at least one previous occasion,” said Dr Wilson. 


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Dr Wilson said there was ‘unequivocal’ evidence of impacts to the head and face, causing internal and external bruising, as well as bruising to her abdomen and arms, in a number of areas he regarded to be incompatible with ‘accidental’ injuries. 

The tot suffered a group of curved bruises above her left ear. When asked about the likely cause, Dr Wilson said it was the kind of bruising you see from ‘knuckles’ and the impact was the kind you would expect through ‘punching,’ but added it was not possible to ascertain the ‘definite’ cause. 

Dr Wilson said Erin’s fatal head injuries could have been caused through forceful impacts or shaking or both. 

Prosecutor, David Brooke QC, asked Dr Wilson ‘how quickly’ it is likely to have taken for a child to collapse, after suffering the ‘type of injuries’ that caused Erin’s death. 

Dr Wilson replied: “You would expect the child to collapse very quickly indeed.”

The court heard how Johnson, 20, of Leighton Road, Gleadless, told police that in the hours before her death, Erin had been behaving normally, and was playing ‘high fives’ with him when she suddenly collapsed. 

Mr Brooke asked Dr Wilson to give his medical opinion Johnson’s account. 



“It’s inconceivable,” said Dr Wilson, adding: “a child with this kind of injury is going to be very cases like this you often see a respiratory illness; their heart stops.” 

Erin’s mother, Kira, gave evidence last week and told the jury 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.

She was rushed to Sheffield Children’s Hospital but died around 14 hours later at 12.30am on May 22. 

The court heard how 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 Kira, Erin and his new born baby the following month. 

The trial continues.