A mother and her new partner between them poisoned a 22-month-old toddler in an attempt to cover up a series of beatings which left the child with a fractured skull, broken ribs and a split liver, a jury has been told.
Eve Leatherland died in October 2017 at her home in Liskeard, Cornwall, a property she lived in with her mother Abigail Leatherland and her mother's boyfriend of a few months, Tom Curd.
Abigail Leatherland left Mansfield a few months before.
Dean Bird, Eve's dad who lives on Portland Street, Mansfield Woodhouse, said he had been left “crying his heart out” after her death.
Mr Bird, who owns A Touch Of Ink tattoo parlour on Portland Street, said: “When the police told me, I couldn’t speak. I was sobbing my heart out, but I knew I still had to carry on and fight for my other kids. But her death does get me at night when no one is around – she meant everything to me.”
Mr Bird had an on-off relationship with Leatherland, living with her and Eve on Main Street, Farnsfield, for a time, and remained in contact until she moved to Cornwall.
The jury at the trial in Cornwall heard that a large amount of the strong adult painkiller codeine, a drug that under no circumstances should be given to a child, was found in Eve's system.
The trial of both Abigail Leatherland, 26, and Tom Curd, 31, from Watford, got underway at Truro Crown Court on Tuesday, March 12.
Both defendants are charged with murder, manslaughter by gross negligence, and causing or allowing the death of a child.
They both deny the charges and say they were not responsible for the injuries Eve sustained in the build-up to her death or the administration of the codeine.
Opening the case, Sean Brunton QC said: “Eve Leatherland was murdered in her own home. In the few days leading up to her death she was assaulted on at least two occasions, possibly several more, and in the course of those assaults she suffered a fractured skull, several fractures ribs, a split liver and numerous other injuries of varying severity.
“She suffered injuries described by medical experts as being the type of injuries most commonly associated with a road traffic crash.
“Not only did she suffer a fractured skull and ribs on one occasion but it seems that when she was assaulted again the second assault was sufficiently similar to the first that it re-fractured her skull and re-fractured some of her ribs, tearing apart the young bones as they started to knit back together.
“But, ghastly as all that may sound this was not quite the end of it. Because despite these assaults on this young child, or perhaps because of them, more was to befall young Eve.
“After these attacks she was then given medication. Not medication kindly given to alleviate her suffering. Not a tea spoon full of Calpol to take the edge off a nasty cold or a banged knee. But rather, she was given so much medication that she was killed by it.
“Whether she was given the medication over a few days to try to mask the effects of these various assaults and these terrible injuries upon her, or whether she was given one massive dose in the hours shortly before she died, we cannot precisely say.
“Codeine is a strong adult painkiller and one which under no circumstances should ever be given to young children at all. But codeine was given to Eve in such a large quantity that it, possibly in combination with these terrible injuries she had suffered, killer her.
“Indeed the evidence would appear to be that the codeine alone, irrespective of the injuries would have been enough to kill her.”
Mr Brunton described how for the four or five days leading up to Eve’s death, she was confined to the small house with just Abigail Leatherland and Curd.
He added: “The inescapable reality is that one or both of these people assaulted that little girl so severely that she was left with life-threatening injuries.
“But rather than taking her to hospital, phoning a doctor or doing anything else to try and save her, ultimately she was given a fatal dose of codeine. Obviously had she been taken to the doctor then her very serious injuries would have come to light and difficult questions would have been asked. So for these two defendants, this was not an option.”
Mr Brunton said that it is not possible for the prosecution to say who did what, but at least one of the two defendants, in their view, must have beaten Eve with such force that her liver ruptured.
He said: “And then at least one of them decided to administer adult medication to her to cover up when they had done and did so in such large quantities that it killer her.
“And all the while neither of them did a thing to help her. In fact, they seem to have spent the majority of the time simply watching TV, playing video games, sending each other text messages and chatting to people on Facebook, just feet away from where Eve was weakening and then dying on her bed.”