March 2019

Child killer sentenced to life

A CHILD killer who brutally beat his partner’s baby before poisoning her with a fatal does of codeine has been jailed for life.

Tom Curd, 31, beat tragic tot Eve Leatherland on several occasions leaving her with a fractured skull and ribs similar to injuries sustained in a car crash.

He then tried to cover his tracks by giving her fatal levels of codeine. The evil killer then played video games as the baby died.

By the time mum, Abigail Leatherland, 26, eventually phoned 999 Eve had been dead for several hours and rigor mortis had already set in.

Had the alarm been raised sooner, medical experts said Eve is likely to have survived.

Curd was convicted of murder by a jury while Leatherland was found guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child after murder charges against her were dropped during the trial.

He was jailed for life and told he will serve a minimum of 20 years.

Leatherland was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.

During sentencing Judge Juliet May described this case as particularly tragic as it involved the death of a young child with their life ahead of them and “all that potential wasted.”

She also praised the police officers who worked on the case and the families affected by Eve’s tragic death.

Several of Eve’s injuries were repeat fractures meaning her bones were re-broken during the healing process, the jury was told.

During the trial, the jury was told Eve had more than 20 bruises and abrasions to her head and some to her body, as well as a fracture to her skull and had no trace of food in her stomach.

Paramedics were concerned that something was amiss, the child seemed to have been dead for some time, there were signs of rigor mortis. Nevertheless she was rushed by air ambulance to Derriford as efforts to save her continued. But it was to no avail and she was certified dead shortly after arrival.

At hospital the nurses started to have concerns about the appearance of the child and the behaviour of the parents. There were bruises to the child’s body and blood in one of her eyes.

However it was not until a skeletal survey of the body was carried out, and thereafter a post-mortem, that the full extent of the injuries were discovered: Eve had a total of 12 fractures and -refractures of her ribs, her skull had been fractured and re-fractured and some blunt force trauma to her tummy had pushed her liver and other internal organs of her abdomen against her spine, lacerating her liver, her right adrenal gland, tearing her mesentery and causing a number of haemorrhages to her bowel.

There were a large number of bruises and other marks to her head, face and body

Prosecuting, Sean Brunton said: “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.”

Mr Brunton told the court it was “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.

Eve had been the victim of at least two assaults and suffered injuries the court heard were most commonly associated with a road traffic crash.

But instead of being given a small dose of medication to alleviate her suffering she was given so much codeine that she had enough in her system to kill an adult.

The jury heard that the toddler’s arm was stiff and paramedics thought rigor mortis may have already set in.

Giving evidence, Leatherland said Eve had been ill in the weeks prior to her death and that she had attributed her condition to a viral infection.

She said that Curd had been left alone with Eve whilst she did the nursery runs in the days before the toddler’s death.

Leatherland told the jury she had a close bond with her daughter.

March 2019

A man has been found guilty of murder after he beat his partner’s 22-month-old daughter and ‘poisioned’ her with codeine, before playing video games and browsing Facebook while she lay dying.

Tom Curd, 31, beat Eve Leatherland on several occasions at the home they shared with the toddler’s mother Abigail, 26, in Liskeard, Cornwall.

He then gave her a dose of codeine that would be fatal for an adult, to try and cover up the injuries.

Curd, from Watford, was found guilty of murder while the jury found Leatherland guilty of causing or allowing the death of a child – though she was cleared of manslaughter by gross negligence.

Eve’s father Dean Bird traveled from Mansfield to Truro Crown Court to watch the verdict and said he wanted to ‘rip off the head’ of Curd and his ex.

Pictures of the filthy mattress Eve was forced to sleep on and the damaged cot she had to use were also shared in court.

Curd inflicted a number of fractures to Eve’s skull and ribs in injuries similar to those caused by a car crash.

Several of them were repeat fractures meaning her bones were re-broken during the healing process, the jury was told.

Medical experts revealed that Eve also had a lacerated liver and eventually died from a codeine overdose, adding that she may have survived if she’d been taken to a hospital sooner.

By the time emergency services arrived Eve had been dead for ‘many hours’, the trial was told.

Instead of getting the injured toddler the medical attention she needed, the pair ‘watched TV, played video games, sent each other text messages and chatted to people on Facebook’.

Both Curd and Leatherland had gone on trial accused of murder, manslaughter by gross negligence and causing or allowing the death of a child.

However, after the completion of the evidence, the prosecution dropped the murder charge against Leatherland, saying it was Curd who beat Eve and gave her codeine in an attempt to hide the pain she was suffering from her mother.

The pair will be sentenced tomorrow.

After the verdicts were read out, Curd was seen shaking his head and Leatherland was in tears in the dock.

The toddler’s father, Mr Bird said: ‘I was really angry, I just wanted to rip their heads off. I had all sorts of emotions going on and before the trial I didn’t know everything about the case and all of Eve’s injuries.

‘I looked at him (Curd) a couple of times and the anger just boiled up inside me. I saw him looking at me and we locked eyes.

‘Now I’ve got to win the rights for Eve’s body so I can lay her to rest properly.’

Speaking about his ex, Mr Bird said that he had been with her on and off for two years but hasn’t spoken to her since the day they split.

He added: ‘She has never been wicked but never used to feed the kids properly and was more worried about going out and drinking.

‘The trial has caused me so much stress and anxiety and I’m just so drained.

‘I didn’t think anything like this would ever happen to me and Eve. It’s the kind of thing you see on the tele and I now have a totally different view on everything.’

Tattooist Mr Bird, who hadn’t seen Eve since she was 15 months old, said: ‘She used to come into my bed every morning. She was always happy and really was a daddy’s girl.’

Describing how he became aware of Eve’s death, he said: ‘Police came to my house at 11:30pm after she (Leatherland) sent me on a wild goose chase to find me.

‘I was in bed when I heard police radios. I opened the window and asked what they wanted. I said ‘what do you want, is it to do with my daughter’ and they just nodded. It was then that the world fell apart.

‘When they told me Eve had passed away I just started sobbing. I can’t remember anything after that. I thought she died of a viral infection and didn’t stop crying for three days. I just sat there and watch videos of Eve, she was such a beautiful girl.’

During the two week trial, the jury was told that the delay in getting help was a direct factor in the toddler’s death.

Sean Brunton, prosecuting, told the jury that Eve had more than 20 bruises and abrasions to her head and some to her body, as well as a fracture to her skull and had no trace of food in her stomach.

He said: ‘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.’

Mr Brunton said 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.

He added: ‘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.’

Pathologist Nathaniel Carey told the court that Eve died from a fatal dose of codeine.

Asked if medical staff could have prevented her death, Dr Carey said: ‘Yes, the effects could have been rapidly reversed with the right treatment.’

By the time Abigail Leatherland called 999 on October 5 2017, experts said 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.

Forensic toxicologist Dr Fiona Perry told the court: ‘The concentration was much higher than therapeutic values and within the range associated with fatalities from codeine.

‘Most of the data based on codeine overdose is for adults and medical advice indicates that codeine shouldn’t be given to children aged under 12.’

The jury heard that the toddler’s arm was stiff and paramedic Neil Jones thought rigor mortis may have already set in.

Giving evidence Mr Jones said that along with his colleague Adrian Wood he carried out advanced life support after they were called to the couple’s home in Liskeard, Cornwall.

When asked if he noticed anything unusual about Eve when she was moved, he said ‘when I came to put her arms in and fold her arms I noticed no flexion at the elbow, the arm came across as one unit’.

‘I said to Adrian she felt stiff and thought there was a potential for rigor mortis to have set in.’

Leatherland claimed Eve had been ill in the weeks prior to her death and that she had attributed her condition to a viral infection.

She added that Curd had been left alone with Eve whilst she did the nursery runs for her other children in the days before the toddler’s death.

On to the day of Eve’s death, Leatherland said she got up at 10.30am but wasn’t feeling great, suffering from back pain and feeling very tired.

Leatherland claimed she then went downstairs after poking her head around the corner into the children’s room, describing how she saw Eve asleep on her back.

The defendant then gave details of a further conversation with Curd on the morning of Eve’s death.

She said: ‘When I got up Tom told me he’d given Eve Coco Pops, she ate some and that he saw L (Leatherland’s son) standing on Eve. He said she looked tired so he put her back to bed.

‘I sat L down, told him he’d been naughty and that he shouldn’t do that to his sister then I just sat and watched TV with L.’

Leatherland was quizzed as to who next checked on Eve, replying that Curd had, 20 minutes later, reporting that she was fine and still sleeping.

She then alleges to have asked Curd to get Eve up to feed her, adding ‘he went upstairs and came back with Eve. I remember seeing her and she was white and not moving. Tom put her on the rug and started CPR and that’s when I rang 999.

‘I was having a panic attack, it’s a bit of a blur to be honest. I passed the phone to Tom and rang mum because she lives up country and all I wanted was my mum.’

Leatherland told the jury she had a close bond with her daughter.

She added: ‘Eve was very happy, always laughing and joking. I love my children, we have a good bond.’

She 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.

When Curd gave evidence, he also denied he had ever hurt the toddler.

He disputed claims from his ex-partner Neeve Lovejoy-Thurley that he shook and screamed at his biological son and that he once mistook a lipstick kiss mark on his son for an injury he thought he had caused.

When asked if he ever lost his temper he replied ‘no, never’, an answer he repeated when asked if he’d caused Eve’s injuries.

He added that he didn’t call a doctor for Eve because he felt it wasn’t his place to do so. He said: ‘I didn’t think I had the right to. I wasn’t her dad.’

Asked about Eve’s injuries and the administration of the codeine, he added: ‘I’m not blaming Abigail but I’m not responsible.’

But a jury took just three hours to reach their verdicts and the couple will both be sentenced at Truro Crown Court tomorrow.