(Warning: This article contains content that can be distressing to some readers)
A mother and her boyfriend reportedly played video games and used Facebook after one or both of them neglected to provide care for a toddler in their care who lay dying as a result of the medicine they had given her to cover up evidence of the beatings they inflicted on her.
Jurors were told that in October 2017, 22-month-old Eve Sutherland died at her residence in Liskeard, Cornwall, with injuries as severe as those caused by a car crash. At the time, mother Abigail Leatherland, 24, and her boyfriend Tom Curd, 31, of Watford, allegedly failed to get help despite the child sustaining a fractured skull, broken ribs, and a split liver, Daily Mail reports.
Instead of tending to the child, the pair “watched TV, played video games, sent each other text messages and chatted with people on Facebook,” the Truro Crown Court heard. Post mortem evaluation indicated large amounts of strong adult painkiller codeine, which is almost fatal if ingested by an infant, in Eve’s system.
Meanwhile, the duo was charged with murder, manslaughter by gross negligence, and causing or allowing the death of a child as their trial proceedings commenced on Tuesday. That said, both Sutherland and Curd have denied charges, saying they were not responsible for the administration of codeine or the injuries little Eve sustained in the weeks leading up to her death.
“Eve Leatherland was murdered in her own home,” Sean Brunton QC, opening the case. “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 fractured 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,” he continued. “Not medication kindly given to alleviate her suffering. Not a teaspoon 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.”
In the four or five days leading up to the toddler’s death, she was confined to a small house with Tom and her mother Abigail, Brunton said. According to Brunton, while the prosecution was unable to determine who did what to the baby at the time, it was certain that at least one of the two defendants beat up Eve with such force that her liver was split in half.
“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 killed her,” he said. “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.”
It was “inconceivable” that the duo failed to become aware of Eve’s deteriorating health especially after they lived in such a small house, the Crown Prosecution Service said, which meant that they chose to turn a blind eye to her predicament.
Experts said that Eve had “almost certainly” been dead for many hours by the time Abigail Leatherland called 999 on October 5, 2017. According to them, rigor mortis had already set in the child’s body when she arrived at the hospital after being airlifted to Derriford Hospital.
The trial continues.