Chef, 20, ‘broke baby step-daughter’s bones just weeks before he shook or punched the 23-month-old to death’

A chef accused of murdering his 23-month-old step-daughter broke her arm and vertebrae just weeks before he shook or punched her to death, a court has heard.

Martin Johnson, 20, told police he had been playing ‘high fives’ with Erin Tomkins at her home in the Gleadless area of Sheffield when she suddenly collapsed.

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

These injuries had been explained by Johnson as Erin ‘falling off the settee when she was asleep’, the court heard.

However, the fractures were found by the pathologist to be ‘forced extension of the spine’ – which the prosecutor said ‘could be caused by whiplash-type forces, the sort of thing that might happen in a car crash’.

David Brooke, QC, prosecuting, told the jury how Erin was taken to hospital on May 21, 2018, after Johnson phoned 999 from his partner’s home in Leighton Road. ceme99

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

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.’

Ms Tomkins told police herself and Johnson ‘had some arguments’ and Johnson told Kira she favoured Erin over their own daughter.

She said she had also noticed that Erin would scream when Martin tried to put a nappy on her, and ‘Martin would get angry with Kira if Erin cried and say that she needed to stop being ‘clingy’.

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.’

Mr Brooke 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.

‘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.’

Johnson denies murder and two counts of causing Erin grievous bodily harm with intent. The trial is expected to last three weeks at Sheffield Crown Court.