Stepdad ‘broke baby girl’s bones’ weeks before he ‘punched her to death’

A CHEF on trial for allegedly shaking or punching his baby step-daughter to death broke her arm and vertebrae just weeks earlier, a court has heard.

Martin Johnson, 20, claimed he had been watching TV and playing “high fives” with Erin Emilia Rain Tomkins, when she suddenly collapsed.

But medical experts found 23-month-old Erin suffered “10 areas of injury to her head and face”, jurors heard.

She was rushed to hospital from her home in Gleadless, Scotland, on May 21, 2018. 

Staff at Sheffield Children’s Hospital found bruising on her face and body and further bruising and bleeding on the surface of her brain. 

A postmortem revealed Erin suffered a broken arm and several spinal fractures shortly before her tragic death, on May 22 last year.

A pathologist found the fractures were “forced extension of the spine” that could have been triggered by “whiplash-type forces, the sort of thing that might happen in a car crash”, prosecutors said.

But Johnson claimed Erin sustained the injuries after “falling off the settee when she was asleep”, the court heard. 

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

David Brooke QC, prosecuting, told the court how Johnson denied shaking Erin: “He thought that he was good with her. 

“Her was trying to be her dad.” 

But Mr Brooke said the chef had “seriously assaulted” his stepdaughter on “at least one occasion or possibly more”. 

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

Mr Brooke added: “The classic type of situation where such injuries can occur is where a child is forcibly shaken or hit or a combination of the two.

“The pathologist who examined Erin’s body after her death found unequivocal evidence of multiple impacts to the head and face from external bleeding.” 

Johnson was living with Erin’s mum, Kira Tomkins, with whom he has a younger daughter. 

Ms Tomkins initially did not “want to believe” Johnson could have killed her daughter, jurors were told. 

But she asked to speak to cops on May 23, telling them how she and Johnson “had some arguments” and he believed she favoured Erin over their own daughter. 

She also told how Erin would scream when Martin tried to change her nappy. 

Martin would get angry with Ms Tomkins if Erin cried and say that she needed to stop being “clingy”, the court heard. 

The pathologist “strongly suspected punching” had caused bruising around her ear, Mr Brookes told the jury. 

He added: “The prosecution suggest that there can be no doubt at all that this was a non-accidental head injury. 

“The only real question is who was responsible.” 

The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.