Poppi Worthington inquest: Police ‘failed to get vital evidence’

  • 6 December 2017

Poppi WorthingtonImage copyright Family photo
Image caption Some important items were lost or never recovered, including Poppi’s last nappy and her pyjama bottoms, the inquest heard

Vital evidence from the final hours of a toddler’s life were lost or never found by police, an inquest has heard.

Poppi Worthington died suddenly at a house in Barrow early on 12 December 2012. No-one has been prosecuted.

An inquest into the 13-month-old’s death has heard that witnesses were not questioned and vital clues, including her pyjama bottoms, were lost.

Pathologist Dr Alison Armour has told the inquest she believed the child was sexually abused.

Catherine Thundercloud, a retired police officer with Cumbria Police, said it would have been “imperative” to get statements from people in the house and Poppi’s aunt, Tracy Worthington, as quickly as possible.

She also said whatever was used at the hospital should have been retained, including gloves worn by those attempting to resuscitate the youngster.

Image copyright Cumbria County Council
Image caption The sheet from the double bed where Poppi was placed at the time of her collapse was not recovered, the inquest heard

The sheet and equipment from the ambulance and the resuscitation room were not retained, the inquest has heard.

“It is imperative you ensure whatever is in that ambulance is taken straight away, it is not disposed of,” Ms Thundercloud said.

Also lost was a sheet used to swaddle Poppi after her death.

In 2016, High Court family judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson ruled Poppi was probably sexually assaulted by her father Paul Worthington shortly before she died.

Mr Worthington has denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Thundercloud was asked to review the evidence as part of an Independent Police Commission Complaint (IPCC) investigation.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Worthington has always denied harming his daughter

Alison Hewitt, counsel for the coroner, asked her what officers should have known before they searched the house.

Ms Thundercloud said they should have had first accounts from the parents and details from hospital staff about what had happened.

The inquest has heard the first police search began before first accounts had been gathered from Mr Worthington.

Ms Thundercloud said: “Unless you’ve read what he said you can’t do a proper strategy.”

She said those failures may have resulted in “vital evidence being lost”.

The hearing continues.

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