Jonathan Simpson – Winsford/Liverpool

March 2021

Boyfriend who smoked cigarette as toddler lay dying guilty of murder

A lying boyfriend who killed his partner’s toddler was today found guilty of murder.

Jacob Marshall suffered a horrific ordeal including a “catastrophic brain injury” at the hands of Jonathan Simpson

Injuries included bruises to Jacob’s head, stomach, groin, arms, shins and feet. Bruising to the child’s penis and two bruises to his left inner ear. 

A CT scan revealed a subdural haemorrhage – blood compressing his brain – and retinal haemorrhages involving extensive bleeds in both eyes.

Nothing could be done to save Jacob, who died from his head injury

The court was told that Simpson, 25, originally from Winsford but recently of Speke offered to mind 22-month-old Jacob while the child’s mum Emma Marshall went to the hairdressers.

A neighbour found the little boy unresponsive at his home in Speke – but Simpson hadn’t even called an ambulance yet.

He gave “several different explanations” for Jacob’s death – first claiming he fell off a couch, later saying “I dropped a baby down the stairs”, and finally suggesting the toddler fell down the stairs.

Simpson admitted that he lied initially because it would look like “bad parenting” to say he left Jacob unsupervised.

He denied ever hurting the child, but prosecutors said he lost his temper and banged Jacob’s head hard on a kitchen floor, inflicting injuries similar to those that would be caused in a “high velocity car crash”.

A jury unanimously found Simpson guilty of murder following three hours of and 49 minutes of deliberation and a 12-day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Simpson showed no emotion in the dock, while Jacob’s mum sobbed and members of her family wept in the public gallery.

The killer’s mum cried loudly while his new girlfriend was also in tears.

Judge Andrew Menary, QC, said Simpson will be sentenced tomorrow morning and remanded him in custody. The murderer waved to his mum as he left the dock.

The trial heard Miss Marshall, 23, left Jacob watching TV in his Mickey Mouse pyjamas, with a fresh nappy and bottle of juice, at around 3pm on Friday, July 12, 2019.

She described her youngest son as “clumsy” and said he ran everywhere and “always had a bruise”, but the court heard he was a “happy, smiley little boy”.

Jacob once previously tumbled down the stairs that April, when his mum took him to hospital and he only had “a little bump on his head” and a graze.

Miss Marshall said Simpson had always been “loving and affectionate” towards her, Jacob, and her oldest son, now six.

The mum said she “trusted him” and had “no concerns” when Simpson, of no fixed address but from Winsford, offered to mind Jacob.

Miss Marshall described her panic when he contacted her to say Jacob had a fall and that an ambulance was coming.

She caught a taxi to Whiston Hospital, where she was met by her crying mum, two sisters and Simpson, and told that Jacob was critically ill.

Her family didn’t believe Simpson’s explanation that Jacob had fallen off the couch and hit his head on a radiator.

The court heard Jacob’s aunt Kelly Martyn told him: “If I find out you’ve put a f***ing finger on that boy, I will kill you.”

Outside a waiting room, Miss Marshall said Simpson hugged her and said: “You can’t let this ruin us, you can’t let what they’re saying turn you against me.”

She said: “I just looked at him and I said ‘you were supposed to be looking after him’. His response was ‘I know’ – that’s all he said.

“I said ‘you need to go’ and stuff and he was walking off saying ‘I love you, I love you’.”

Neighbour Stephen Forster told the jury Simpson came out of the house at around 3.40pm and asked if he could do CPR.

He found Jacob lying on a kitchen rug, unresponsive and breathing “slightly”, with a “massive lump” on his forehead

Mr Forster recalled asking “how long is the ambulance going to be?” and Simpson replying: “Oh I haven’t rung one yet.”

He said Simpson rang 999 but was playing down Jacob’s injuries, before he left the phone on a worktop and went into the garden for a cigarette.

Mr Forster said: “He said ‘I was just having a ciggy because of my nerves’. I said ‘you can’t leave the phone, you don’t know what they’re asking’.

“Then he said the phone had died and he needed to charge it in the living room.”

Paramedics arrived at 4.10pm and were concerned by Simpson’s account and unexplained bruises to Jacob’s head, stomach, groin, arms, shins and feet.

Doctors at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital were also “suspicious” about bruising to the child’s penis and two bruises to his left inner ear. 

A CT scan revealed a subdural haemorrhage – blood compressing his brain – and retinal haemorrhages involving extensive bleeds in both eyes.

Nothing could be done to save Jacob, who died from his head injury late on Saturday, July 13. 

A Home Office pathologist told the jury that Jacob’s multiple injuries were “highly suspicious of fatal child abuse”.

Dr Jonathan Medcalf said falls down stairs “very rarely” resulted in death and it was “very unusual” for injuries to be so widespread.

The expert said he would have expected to see carpet burns and didn’t believe Simpson’s account “adequately explains the findings”.

Gordon Cole, QC, defending, asked if he could “rule out 100% a fall down the stairs.”

Dr Medcalf said: “I cannot rule it out as part of the fatal incident, a fall or a push or a throw down the stairs for example.”

The jury heard Simpson – who has a son from a past relationship – has six previous convictions from 2012 to 2016, including assault causing actual bodily harm and five offences of battery.

Simpson said after Miss Marshall went out, he left Jacob in the living room, rolled a cigarette and smoked it by the back door, when he heard a “metallic bang”.

He told jurors he found Jacob unresponsive at the bottom of the stairs, with his right foot stuck in an open stair gate, and “panicked”.

Simpson said he went to get help, then carried Jacob to the kitchen because his phone was on charge there and he needed it to call an ambulance.

He denied going out for a cigarette during the 999 call and said the phone cut off, so he moved to get a better signal.

Under cross-examination by John Benson, QC, prosecuting, Simpson denied that Jacob was injured at around 3.15pm, but he “delayed” getting help for some 30 minutes.

He said Jacob was walking around looking for his mum when she left, but denied he became upset and wouldn’t stop crying.

Simpson denied that Jacob was actually hurt in the kitchen and that he pinched his penis as a “nasty reaction” to him crying when changing his nappy and hit him in the ear.

Mr Benson said: “Did you shake Jacob and bang his head hard on that kitchen floor?” “No,” Simpson said.

“You did, didn’t you.” Simpson replied: “No.”

Asked why he told paramedics Jacob cried for two minutes before becoming unresponsive, he said: “Dunno.”

Mr Benson said: “Or was he crying for two minutes after you banged his head?” “No,” Simpson said.

The prosecutor continued: “…before the injury overwhelmed him. Is that what happened Mr Simpson?”

“No, that’s not what happened,” Simpson replied.

Simpson also rejected the suggestion that he planted a teddy bear by the sofa to make his initial lie more “credible”.

He handed himself in at Winsford Police Station at around 8.45pm on July 13, when he said to a special constable: “I’ve been good for three years, now I’ve gone and dropped a baby down the stairs.

Mr Benson said Simpson’s reaction to being arrest on suspicion of murder was: “F***ing stupid, pathetic.”

Simpson said he couldn’t remember that and denied trying to blame Miss Marshall for Jacob’s injuries in a text to police.

However, he accepted that when he said “if his mum watched him more and made the house more safe”, this was a reference to “the baby gates”.

Judge Menary thanked the six men and six women of the jury after they returned their verdict.

He said: “It’s one of the most difficult cases that this or any court will have to deal with. These are horrible cases and the court as you heard now will proceed to sentence tomorrow.”

The judge added: “These sort of cases will take an intellectual and emotional toll on you all. There are facilities available for people to speak to if you wish to do that.”

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