Toddler Poppi Worthington’s mother walks out of court as coroner reads out graphic details of the horrific injuries that made pathologist ‘sure’ she’d been abused before she died.
- Paul Worthington ‘probably sexually assaulted Poppi’, judge previously ruled
- Former CPS northwest chief Nazir Afzal says police failures prevented a trial
- Senior coroner will deliver his conclusions at toddler’s second inquest today
- Poppi died in 2012 after collapsing at her home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
The mother of Poppi Worthington walked out of her daughter’s inquest today as a coroner read out graphic details of the injuries that made a pathologist ‘sure’ she had been abused before her death.
The dramatic scenes came as a senior coroner today delivered his conclusions at the second inquest of Poppi – more than five years after she died.
The toddler’s controversial first inquest was quashed by the High Court and deemed ‘irregular’ after it lasted just seven minutes and did not refer to Poppi by name as her death was declared as unexplained.
Before the Christmas and New Year break, a more in-depth examination of the circumstances took place as three weeks of evidence was heard at County Hall, Kendal, before David Roberts, HM senior coroner for Cumbria.
The otherwise healthy youngster woke up screaming at about 5.30am on December 12, 2012 at the family home in Barrow-in-Furness and her father, Paul Worthington, put her in his bed and went to get a fresh nappy, the inquest heard.
When he returned, she had settled but five or 10 minutes later he reached over and she was limp or floppy. He then rushed downstairs and the child’s mother, sleeping downstairs, called an ambulance.
Paramedics carried out a ‘scoop and run’, delivering the apparently lifeless girl to Furness General Hospital at 6.11am but she never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after 7am.
Medics noted the child was bleeding from her bottom.
In January 2016 – as part of family court proceedings involving Poppi’s siblings – a judge revealed his findings that Mr Worthington probably sexually assaulted his daughter shortly before her death.
Mr Worthington has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any offence as the Crown Prosecution Service say there is insufficient evidence.
Coming out of hiding to give evidence in Kendal, the former Asda supermarket worker refused to answer 252 questions as he exercised his legal right to not say anything which may incriminate himself.
An array of expert medical witnesses also entered the witness-box as the inquest was told Poppi’s cause of death remains ‘unascertained’.
The post-mortem examination findings of pathologist Dr Alison Armour – that Poppi had been penetrated and had tears in her bottom – were hotly disputed.
The inquest also heard Cumbria Police’s investigation into the death was so botched that vital evidence was lost and exactly what happened to Poppi will never be known.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) last year said senior detectives were ‘unstructured and disorganised’, and highlighted the lengthy delay into a criminal investigation taking place ‘despite there being significant suspicious circumstances from the outset”.
Lawyers for Poppi’s mother – who cannot be named for legal reasons – and Mr Worthington both submitted to the coroner there was not enough evidence for him to conclude the toddler was unlawfully killed.
However, Gillian Irving QC, representing Poppi’s mother, argued there was ‘clear evidence’ that Poppi was subject to a ‘penetrative anal assault’.
Claiming the evidence of Dr Armour was ‘tainted’ and ‘unsafe’, Leslie Thomas QC, for Mr Worthington, said an open verdict was appropriate as there was not enough evidence to reach any other conclusion.
Mr Roberts is expected take up to three hours to deliver his conclusions from noon onwards.
Yesterday, Nazir Afzal, who was the Crown Prosecution Service northwest chief when he approved the decision not to charge Mr Worthington, said police failures prevented a trial.
He told The Sunday Times: ‘I had a strong suspicion that Poppi died after being sexually abused by her father.
‘I was given a case file by the police that had so many gaps that I was left with no choice. I could not approve charging Worthington based on the evidence the police investigation produced.’
Mr Afzal added that work carried out by Cumbria Police at the time was ‘simply not of the same standard as other forces in the North West’.