Sheffield toddler murder trial: Stepdad denies hurting 23-month-old Erin
A Sheffield man accused of murdering his infant stepdaughter has denied he ever did anything to hurt her.
23-month-old Erin Tompkins died of severe head injuries on May 22 last year, after being rushed to Sheffield Children’s Hospital from her home in Gleadless Valley.
Her step-father, Martin Johnson, 20, of Leighton Road, Gleadless, was later arrested and charged with her murder after hospital staff became suspicious her injuries were not accidental. He is also alleged to have inflicted grievous bodily harm on Erin twice before her death. Johnson denies all charges.
Giving evidence at Sheffield Crown Court today, Johnson said that on the day of Erin’s death the tot was quieter than normal.
He said he tried to cheer her up by playing ‘high-five’ before the toddler’s demeanour suddenly changed.
“All I remember is her eyes started to flicker and she fell backwards but I caught her before she landed,” he said.
“I panicked and thought she might have been choking on a bit of sick so I did chest compressions but that did nothing.”
Bryan Cox, representing Johnson, asked him if he had done anything to harm Erin that morning, or on any other occasion.
“No, never,” he replied.
The jury heard details of other injuries the toddler had received in the months before she died, including fractures to her arm and spine.
Johnson denied he had been the cause of any of the injuries, and said he loved Erin ‘to bits’.
His version of events was then challenged by prosecution barrister, David Brooke QC, who said Johnson had been under stress at the time of Erin’s death over money worries and trouble at work.
Mr Brook also said Johnson was jealous of his partner’s alleged preference for Erin over his own child, and frustrated the 23-month-old was not more comfortable around him.
“As the pressure mounted you took out your frustration on Erin, didn’t you? You hit her or shook her and you have been lying about it ever since haven’t you?
“No, I have not. That is a ridiculous thing to say,” replied Johnson.
“It is yet another occasion when you were left alone with her and she got injured, isn’t it,” said Mr Brooke.
“No, there were never any occasions she got injured when she was with me apart from accidents,” said Johnson.
Mr Brooke asked Johnson about a violent argument he had with Erin’s mother, Kira, days before the tot suffered her fatal injuries.
Johnson admitted he had kicked Kira in the leg and pushed her into the bath, but said he had been provoked by her drunken and aggressive behaviour towards him.
The trial continues.