UK inquest hears 13-month-old girl was probably sexually assaulted by father

A UK inquest into the death of the 13-month-old who a judge said had probably been sexually assaulted by her father has continued today.

Poppi Worthington's father described his daughter as a "bully" as he refused to respond to questions about how her DNA came to be on his penis.

His voice broke with emotion and he wiped away silent tears as he sat in the witness box, refusing 252 times to answer questions about the unexplained death of his child in the early hours of December 12 2012.

Paul Worthington. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

He refused to answer any questions about the minutes and hours before his daughter died or respond to why his daughter's DNA was found on his penis, but asked to describe "the child he knew" he replied: "Lively. Bubbly. The happy one out of the siblings. Bully in her own little way."

The former supermarket nightshift worker has been in hiding for up to two years since a family court judge made public his conclusion that Mr Worthington, 49, probably sexually assaulted his daughter before her collapse.

A botched investigation by Cumbria Police meant vital evidence was lost.

Mr Worthington has never been charged with any offence and denies any wrongdoing. The cause of her death remains "unascertained."

On Wednesday, Mr Worthington again declined to answer the majority of questions posed to him by counsel to the inquest Alison Hewitt after he was told that under Rule 22 of the Coroners (Inquests) Rules 2013 he was not obliged to answer any questions tending to incriminate him.

Over two sessions, two hours on Wednesday afternoon and two hours on Thursday at the inquest at County Hall in Kendal, Mr Worthington replied 252 times with the same answer, "I refer to my previous statements under Rule 22."

Sitting yards away in the courtroom was his former partner, Poppi's mother, who held her head in her hands.

Mr Worthington's voice faltered though as he continued to provide the same answer to Miss Hewitt's questions about events on the night.

Poppi's mother was asleep downstairs when she heard a scream which was followed by Mr Worthington coming down to fetch a clean nappy.

Shortly after, Mr Worthington rushed back downstairs holding his lifeless daughter and shouting to his ex-partner to call for an ambulance, the inquest has heard.

The second inquest into Poppi's death was ordered after the controversial first hearing - held by a different coroner - was shrouded in secrecy and lasted just seven minutes.

Poppi was listed as "a child aged 13 months" at the first inquest in 2014 and her death was declared as unexplained.

In a fact-finding judgment as part of care proceedings involving Poppi's siblings, family court judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson, now Lord Justice Peter Jackson, said Poppi's "significant bleeding" within 15 minutes of the 999 call made from the family home could only be explained sensibly as the result of penetrative trauma.

On Thursday, Mr Worthington was also asked about Poppi's DNA being found on his penis, which he has previously said was by transfer from him holding the child then going to the lavatory at the hospital.

Ms Hewitt asked him whether he was "aware of the view expressed by at least one pathologist that the findings of the post-mortem suggest that there had been penetration of Poppi's anus".

She continued: "Did you at any time place Poppi in a position where her face was pushed into a pillow? Or put your hand or an object over her face?"

Mr Worthington replied again in a quiet voice: "I refer to my earlier statements, rule 22."

Kate Stone, representing the mother, asked him: "Why did you hurt your daughter, Mr Worthington?"

The witness shook his head and gave the stock reply he had used before.

Coroner David Roberts completed the questions, telling the witness it was his legal right not to answer.

But he added: "That said, today is an opportunity for you to tell me anything you think may help me understand how Poppi came by her death.

"So I don't want you to leave court thinking you have not had the opportunity to tell me what happened as best you can remember about the facts of those hours.

"It's an opportunity. Is there anything else you would like to tell me?"

Mr Worthington replied: "No sir."

The hearing continues.


KEYWORDS: Court

 

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