Eve Leatherland’s father opens up about her murder trial

Dean Bird speaks to the Chad
Dean Bird speaks to the Chad

“I thought I was going to be upset in court, more than what I was, but I never cried at any point - I think it was my anger taking over.”

These are the words of Dean Bird, father to murdered Mansfield toddler Eve Leatherland whose murder trial has concluded in Cornwall.

Dean’s daughter Eve was “beaten, poisoned and left to die” by Tom Curd, the 31-year-old Watford man who was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum 20 years for killing the 22-month-old girl.

Dean’s ex-partner Abigail Leatherland, Eve’s 26-year-old mum, was also sentenced to three and a half years for causing or allowing the toddler’s death in Liskeard, Cornwall, in October 2017.

The Mansfield Woodhouse tattooist travelled for 11 hours every day to Truro Crown Court for the three week trial, where he heard details of how Curd administered his daughter with “enough codeine to kill an adult” and beat her “on multiple occasions” - fracturing her ribs 12 times and causing two skull fractures.

Dean, 30, had not seen Eve for seven months after Leatherland left Mansfield for Cornwall, had no contact with the convicted mother in the months before Eve’s death, and said he attended Truro every day “to make a statement” to Leatherland that he would travel anywhere and do anything for Eve, and she should have “just called me if she needed my help”.

Speaking about being confronted with the man who killed his daughter, Dean spoke of the anger within him and the difficulty of “stopping myself from smashing through the glass and doing to him what he did to Eve”.

He said: “I went down there every day to make a statement to Abi that I would go anywhere and do anything for Eve, and to be honest the journeys to and from court cleared my head each day.

“While in court I got told off, I was mainly staring at Tom and I kept locking eyes with him.

“One of the policemen had to pull me out of court and tell me to stop staring at him in the way I was, though he knew how difficult it was for me.

“While Tom was giving evidence I noticed a lot of hiccups in what he was saying that I don’t even think the judge or jury noticed, and I got into it and was taking everything in.

“In court I was more disappointed in Abi that she could let it happen in the first place, to allow him to do this, but I do still think she had a part to play in it - more than the verdict says.

“I have gone through a lot in the last year and a half, and it is anger now more than anything - I was completely powerless in the situation and you can’t change anything if you don’t know it’s going on.”

Curd and Leatherland were initially charged with murder, manslaughter by gross negligence and allowing or causing the death of a child.

However midway through the trial the judge dropped the murder charge against Leatherland and placed the blame “firmly at the feet of Curd”.

Throughout the course of the trial the jury was told how Curd repeatedly beat Eve, fracturing her ribs and skull and lacerating her liver.

The injuries were inflicted on at least two separate occasions, some of Eve’s bones being re-fractured in identical places as they began to heal.

In a bid to mask the pain Eve was in, and to hide the injuries he had caused, Curd then administered Eve with a dose of codeine, however he miscalculated the amount and caused Eve the overdose that would eventually cost her life.

The jury also heard that, in the days leading up to her death, baby Eve was in her bedroom, drugged, alone, on a dirty mattress with no bedding and a broken cot, most likely caused by Curd’s beatings.

Leatherland said she had no idea of Eve’s suffering at the hands of her boyfriend of a few months, and put her drowsiness down to a viral infection, but the jury ruled that she must have been at least partly aware of what was going on.

The jury found Curd guilty of murder and Leatherland guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child, but not guilty of manslaughter.

Speaking on the sentencing, Dean felt that Curd got more time in jail than he initially thought, but that he was surprised with the smaller sentence for Leatherland.

Dean, who is awaiting treatment for Chrone’s Disease, said: “To be honest I thought Tom would get a maximum of 13-14 years in jail, but when he was sentenced to life with a minimum 20 years I was happy.

“I still think it should be life for a life in prison but that never happens in this country.

“However I thought it might be more with Abi, though I was never under the impression that she had killed Eve - I knew it was mostly him.

“On one day I walked out angry because they had dragged in someone to be Abi’s witness who had known her for two months, while I was with her for two years and have known her for five years.

“They never got me to go on the stand, I had written a statement which could have explained what she is like, but they used someone who was basically on her side and I think it went in her favour.

“In my statement I didn’t say she was a bad mother or that she was a nasty person, I just said that she often didn’t pay attention and would leave knives around, or she would smash a plate and only clean half of it up.

“She just wasn’t clued up properly sometimes.”

Dean has previously explained how he was left “crying my heart out” after finding out about the death of “wonderful Eve”, and says that if he can bring her home to bury her, he has planned a “beautiful” ceremony “to put her to rest”.

Remembering Eve, he said: “She used to come into my bed every morning. She was always happy and really was a daddy’s girl.

“I remember coming in from work and seeing her in the corner of the room, and we would both smile at each other.

“To be honest I haven’t grieved properly because I’m going to grieve again when we put her to rest.

“It’s looking good about bringing her back home but I still can’t give up yet because something could come up that changes it all.

“Since the start of the trial I’ve had an eight month hold put on her body so she can’t be released and we’ve still got some time left.

“It gives us time to get everything sorted and I’m planning on having horses and carriages and nothing black.

“We did a party for her third birthday party and thousands of people turned up - we made it as fun as we could, and we will do that again.

“I don’t really like to think of it as funeral and death, just laying my daughter to rest properly and giving her the perfect send off she deserves.”

Curd ‘wilfully, fatally failed Eve’

Speaking at the sentencing of Tom Curd, Mrs Justice May said that the Watford man “wilfully, fatally failed Eve” in the days leading up to her death.

The judge said: “Eve’s youth and vulnerability – at your mercy, in the house you shared with her mother, are both seriously aggravating features.

“Living with, having shared responsibility for, a toddler is on any ordinary understanding a relationship involving very serious trust on the part of the adult.

“You wilfully, fatally failed Eve over and over in that last week of her life when you repeatedly assaulted her and then dosed her with codeine.

“Even with the codeine her injuries would have been unbearably painful and, as the evidence shows, the effect of codeine does not last.

“For much of that time she was in her bedroom, drugged, alone, on that dirty mattress with no bedding.

“It was a bleak, disorientating and comfortless way for that little girl to die.”

Leatherland ‘did not protect Eve’

Speaking following Abigail Leatherland’s sentencing, Mrs Justice May said that Leatherland “did not take any steps” to protect her daughter from Curd.

She said: “You didn’t cause Eve’s death but allowed it to happen. I can’t find that it is a momentary of brief lapse.

“Multiple incidents of serious violence were inflicted by Curd and to cause them he must have used significant force.

“You (Leatherland) did not take any steps to protect Eve.

“I do believe you weren’t aware of the risk caused by Thomas Curd and up to that week you cared for your children and they were both happy and healthy.

“I bear in mind your remorse and the greatest punishment will be that you failed your daughter when she needed you and had you acted she’d still be alive.”

Leatherland will serve half of her sentence in prison, and will be released on licence for the rest of her life.

Eve ‘blighted by brutality’

Children’s welfare charity NSPCC has followed the case in Truro Crown Court and described baby Eve’s life as “blighted” by Curd’s “brutality”.

Speaking on the case, a spokesman said: “Eve Leatherland’s short life was blighted by horrific violence and these sentences reflect the awful severity of that physical abuse.

“Everyone who followed this case would have been deeply affected by hearing evidence of the brutality meted out by Curd and the lack of protection offered by Eve’s own mum.

“Looking out for the welfare of babies and young children is something we all have a duty to undertake. And any adult with concerns for a child’s welfare can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.”