Eve Leatherland, aged just 22 months, died in October 2017 at her home in Liskeard, Cornwall. (Facebook)
A mother and her new partner poisoned a toddler to cover up a series of beatings – then played video games and used Facebook as she lay dying, a court heard.
Eve Leatherland, aged just 22 months, died in October 2017 at her home in Liskeard, Cornwall with injuries said to have been similar to those caused by a car crash.
The child had a fractured skull, broken ribs and a split liver – but her mother Abigail Leatherland, 24, and boyfriend Tom Curd, 31, of Watford, allegedly failed to get help.
Truro Crown Court was told that the pair instead ‘watched TV, played video games, sent each other text messages and chatted to people on Facebook’.
The girl’s post mortem revealed that a large amount of the strong adult painkiller codeine – a drug that should never be given to a child – was found in Eve’s system.
The defendants – whose trial got underway today – are both 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, killed 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.’
The Crown Prosecution Service says it’s ‘inconceivable’ in such a small house that they failed to become aware of Eve’s deteriorating condition and that it was their choice to turn a blind eye.
By the time Abigail Leatherland called 999 on October 5 2017, experts say that Eve had ‘almost certainly’ been dead for many hours and that when she arrived at hospital after being airlifted to Derriford Hospital rigor mortis had already set in, a process which usually takes several hours.
Both Curd and Leatherland deny the charges against them. The trial continues.
This article has been adapted from its original source.