Only murder-accused could have been responsible for girl's death, court told

Erin Tomkins, who died as a result of head and spinal injuries last May
Erin Tomkins, who died as a result of head and spinal injuries last May

A chef accused of murdering his two-year-old step-daughter is the "only person who could have been responsible" for the girl's multiple injuries, a jury has been told.

Martin Johnson, 20, told police he had been playing "high fives" with Erin Tomkins at her home when she suddenly collapsed in front of him, Sheffield Crown Court was told on Monday.

But prosecutors told a jury how medical experts found a number of bruises on Erin's body, including "10 areas of injury to the head and face".

A postmortem examination found that Erin, who was just a few weeks short of her second birthday, had also suffered a broken arm and a number of fractures to her spine in the weeks leading up to her death.

David Brooke QC, prosecuting, told the jury that Erin's injuries were part of a "pattern of behaviour" by Johnson.

He said: "The prosecution suggest that this was not a one-off fit of pique or temper but someone who had struck at a very young child more than once, and if you accept it, had broken her bones."

Mr Brooke said: "The pathologist who examined Erin's body after her death found unequivocal evidence of multiple impacts to the head and face from external bruising."

Mr Brooke said a pathologist "strongly suspected punching" caused a number of bruises around the little girl's ear.

The prosecutor said: "The prosecution suggest that there can be no doubt at all that this was non-accidental head injury.

"The only real question is who was responsible."

Mr Brooke said: "In the opinion of the experts, the findings are simply not reconcilable with the description that the defendant gave to the doctors of Erin watching television and playing 'high fives' just before her collapse.

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"In other words, given he admits being the only person with her at the time, all the medical evidence points to the defendant being the only person who could have been responsible."

Mr Brooke told the jury how Erin was taken to hospital on Monday May 21, 2018, after Johnson phoned 999 from his partner's home in Leighton Road, in the Gleadless area of Sheffield.

Staff at Sheffield Children's Hospital found bruises on her face and body, bruising and bleeding to the surface of her brain, which was also swollen, and bleeding to both eyes.

Erin died just after midnight on May 22.

Mr Brooke explained that Johnson was staying with his partner Kira Tomkins, then 18, who was Erin's mother.

He said the couple also have a younger daughter together.

Mr Brooke said: "He (Johnson) denied shaking Erin. He thought that he was good with her. He was trying to be her dad."

He said that Miss Tomkins' mother told police that she heard Johnson refer during one argument with her daughter to "your favourite daughter Erin", which the prosecutor said was "signifying some sort of jealousy".

In Johnson's 999 call, which was read to the court by Mr Brooke, the defendant said: "She's going through a stage of liking her mum more."

The prosecutor said Miss Tomkins told police that the defendant would get angry with her because Erin would scream when he put a nappy on and get upset when he was around.

He said she told officers: "It had been really getting him down."

Johnson denies murder and two counts of causing Erin grievous bodily harm with intent.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.