A mother accused of murdering her 22-month-old daughter has told a jury that they enjoyed a strong bond and she was in no way responsible for her death.
Abigail Leatherland, 26, formerly of Mansfield, is said to have killed her daughter Eve Leatherland in October 2017 at the home in Liskeard, Cornwall, that they shared at the time with Leatherland’s co-defendant Tom Curd.
The pair are on trial accused of murdering the toddler.
Eve died after a codeine overdose and X-rays also found that she had been assaulted on more than one occasion, suffering repeat fractures to the ribs and skull as well as a lacerated liver.
Paramedics rushed to Eve’s lifeless body and, although she was later pronounced dead, it is thought that she had died some hours before her arrival at hospital.
Leatherland took to the witness stand at Truro Crown Court in Cornwall following the completion of Curd’s evidence and right away she was asked by prosecuting barrister Richard Smith, QC, if she had ever been in trouble with the police before, to which she replied no.
She also answered with an emphatic no when asked if she’d ever hurt her daughter, if she ever saw Curd hurt Eve, if she’d ever given Eve codeine or if she’d ever seen Curd give her codeine.
Leatherland described how she was originally from just outside of Mansfield but moved down with her two children in April 2017 for a new start.
Mr Smith showed Leatherland a smiling picture of Eve and asked her how typical such a look was.
She said: “Very. Eve was very happy, always laughing and joking. I love my children, we have a good bond. Eve was very clingy and I basically brought her up on my own.”
Leatherland confirmed that there were never any suggestions of Eve being hurt prior to her meeting Curd on Facebook.
Day One: Trial starts into death of Mansfield Woodhouse toddler
Day Two: Murder trial told Mansfield toddler was beaten, poisoned and left to die
Day Three: Mansfield toddler was cold and blue when paramedics arrived to save her
Day Four: Murder accused ‘laughed and joked’ as Mansfield toddler lay dead in a hospital bed
Day Five: Jury told Mansfield toddler had enough codeine in her system to kill an adult
Day Six: Mansfield toddler suffered 12 rib fractures and two skull fractures in the days before she died
Day Seven: Trial told Mansfield toddler could have been saved if paramedics were called earlier
Mr Smith then asked Leatherland about how Curd was with her two children. She replied: “He was caring.
“Eve was very funny with people but with Tom she clicked with him straight away. It was important he had children because he related to things with the children.”
Leatherland said that she never once saw Curd lose his temper with the children.
Mr Smith and Leatherland then went over text messages in which she told her mum that Eve’s brother L (his identity is being held), hit her with a toy car or stood on her daughter.
Leatherland described L as “boisterous and lively” in the days leading up to Eve’s death.
Leatherland complained of being unwell herself and had slept a lot, leaving child duties to Curd.
She stated that Curd was responsible that week for getting the children up and checking on them.
An emotional Leatherland said she noticed Eve pale and sleepy and took her to the doctors in the days prior to her death, thinking it was a viral infection.
She said: “I thought she was sleeping lots because of a viral infection. I thought it was chicken pox. I let her sleep a lot because that’s what I did when L had it.”
Leatherland told Mr Smith that she believed Eve’s bruise on her head had come from an accident when brushing her teeth with Curd and that her condition had improved when Curd went back to Watford for a week.
Mr Smith quizzed Leatherland about Eve’s sleeping pattern and she said that she always went to bed well when Curd put her to bed.
Tom Curd and Abigail Leatherland
Leatherland denied Curd’s claims that he urged her to take Eve to a doctor before telling the jury that she wanted to marry him and have children with him.
Leatherland and Curd deny murder, manslaughter by gross negligence and causing or allowing the death of a child. The trial continues.
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