Toddler Poppi Worthington was sexually abused before her death, a coroner has ruled.
The “fit and active” 13-month-old was in an “unsafe” sleeping environment and suffered injuries to her bottom caused by penetration, Cumbria’s senior coroner David Roberts said.
Roberts gave his conclusions on Monday following a three-week inquest before Christmas at which Poppi’s father Paul Worthington refused to answer questions about her death 252 times, reports the Press Association.
The coroner said Worthington’s account did not “stand up to scrutiny”.
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 put her in his bed and went to get a fresh nappy, the inquest at Kendal Coroner’s Court had heard.
He claimed that when he returned, she had settled but five or 10 minutes later he reached over and she was limp.
He claimed he then rushed downstairs and the child’s mother, who was 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 she was bleeding from her bottom.
In January 2016 – as part of family court proceedings involving Poppi’s siblings – a judge revealed his findings that Worthington probably sexually assaulted his daughter by anal penetration shortly before her death.
Worthington has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with any offence as the Crown Prosecution Service say there is insufficient evidence. He has been living in hiding since the family court proceedings were made public.
Roberts said a conclusion of unlawful killing was not available to him as he was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Poppi died from an act of murder or manslaughter.
Although satisfied that she was penetrated before her death, he concluded she did not die immediately afterwards and that penetration did not cause her death.
He said the cause of death was asphyxia as he explained her ability to breathe was compromised by an “unsafe sleeping environment” after her father had taken Poppi from her cot and placed her next to him in his double bed.
Roberts said Poppi, who at the time was suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection, died from asphyxia. He said the child was taken from her cot and put in Paul Worthington’s double bed, where she was anally penetrated.
Sleeping in the bed with her father and because of the infection her ability to breath was compromised, he said.
Roberts concluded: “The deceased died as a result of her ability to breathe being compromised by an unsafe sleeping environment.”
In a statement, Worthington’s lawyers, Farley Solicitors, said: “Mr Worthington is considering his options following the coroner’s conclusion today and we are advising him not to say anything further at this point.”