Two women have gone on trial accused of murdering two-year-old Liam Johnson and blaming the killing on a seven-year-old boy.
Nyomi Fee (28), and her civil partner Rachel Trelfa or Fee (31), are also charged with a catalogue of assault, cruelty and neglect charges involving three children in their care, including the dead toddler.
The couple, originally from Ryton, Tyne and Wear, deny committing the offences at the home they shared near Glenrothes in Fife between January 12, 2012 and March 22, 2014.
Their trial before Lord Burns at the High Court in Livingston is expected to last for between four and six weeks.
On the first day of the trial yesterday (Monday), Liam’s dad Joseph Johnson (33), an unemployed printer from Newcastle, said he first met their son’s mum Rachel in 2005 and moved in with her shortly afterwards.
Liam was born in the north of England in August 2011 and Rachel left him for Nyomi, who lived locally, that December.
He said the split was completely unexpected and left him feeling “devastated”.
He found out later they had lived in hotels in the north of England before going to stay in Scotland with his son.
He told the jury he saw Liam on a regular basis for the first few months until about Easter 2012 when he had him in Newcastle for a week.
Then he said, he got a message from Rachel on Facebook saying she wanted to “get back with us”.
He went to Macclesfield where her parents live and tried to make another go of their relationship.
He said: “She was very full-on which I was quite surprised about. She’d fallen out with Nyomi and wanted to get back together with me.
“I was over the moon. I had my reservations about it but it was what i wanted at the time. I wanted my family back together.”
He went on: “She started saying she was getting treated quite badly by Nyomi and wanted to get back to me, things like having her bank cards taken away from her and not being allowed out of the house.
“Things like that she told us everything we’d always thought, that she (Nyomi) was a controlling person who had manipulated her into going away. She said everything we’d thought was right and she was that person.”
But within 48 hours Rachel had left him for Nyomi again, taking baby Liam with her.
After lawyers got involved in a dispute over access to his son, Mr Johnson said his new partner, Lisa answered the phone in their home on March 22, 2014 to hear the bombshell news that his son was dead.
He said: “It was Nyomi on the phone saying that (a boy) had killed Liam and Liam was dead. I asked was is it a joke? She said: ‘Who the hell would joke about this?’ and the phone went down.
“The next call was a police officer or ambulance man who confirmed it. I came to Scotland the next day because it was late on at night when I got it and was past train times so I came first thing the next day, I went to a police station in Kirkcaldy or somewhere like that.”
Under cross examination he agreed that he saw nothing wrong with using the “naughty step” and “a smack on the bum” to discipline misbehaving children.
He said: “These are the sort of parenting things you get on TV. They’re kind of common things.”
He also agreed that children would be given medication like Calpol for minor ailments, sometimes administered with a syringe or dropper.
Both women are charged with assaulting Liam, who was also known as Liam Fee, by repeatedly inflicting blunt force trauma to his head and body between January 12, 2012 and March 14, 2014.
They are accused of murdering him by inflicting similar blunt force injuries between March 5 and 22, 2014, injuring him so severely that he died.
They are also charged with wilfully ill-treating, neglecting and abandoning Liam in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health between January and March 2014 leaving him in a darkened room without physical or mental stimulation, giving him Calpol to make him sleep and failing to provide and seek appropriate, timely and adequate medical aid for him when he was injured.
They further deny attempting to defeat the ends of justice following Liam’s death by delaying contacting the emergency services and falsely claiming during a 999 call – and later to police, friends and family – that one of the seven-year-olds was responsible for his death.
The Crown also alleges that prior to the arrival of police and paramedics on March 22, they grabbed the hand of the seven year-old they blamed and forced it into the dead toddler’s mouth.
The cruelty and neglect charges include allegations that they deprived all three boys of food, refused to let them go to the toilet at night and forced them to stand naked and shivering under a cold shower if they wet the bed.
They told the older boys that their penises would be cut off with a saw and said to one of them that they had killed his dad with a saw, the Crown claims.
They Fees allegedly made a cage out of a metal fireguard and piece of wood and imprisoned one of the youngsters in it with his arms and legs bound to the structure for prolonged periods of time.
They allegedly forced the same youngster to eat his own excrement and dog excrement, put soap in his mouth and shut him in a darkened drawer to sleep.
The other seven-year-old was allegedly compelled to eat his own vomit and had his face rubbed in underwear soiled with urine and faeces.
One of the seven year olds had a cage of rats put on his head and the other was tied naked in a room where rats and snakes were kept and told that a the boa constrictor there “ate naughty boys”.
The trial continues.