Poppi Wor­thing­ton’s fa­ther re­fuses to an­swer 69 ques­tions at tod­dler’s in­quest

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Hay­ley Dixon

THE fa­ther of Poppi Wor­thing­ton yes­ter­day re­fused to an­swer 69 ques­tions re­lat­ing to her death, as it emerged that he is now un­der wit­ness pro­tec­tion.

Paul Wor­thing­ton was called to give ev­i­dence in pub­lic for the first time, but re­fused to fill in the gaps of Poppi’s fi­nal hours on the grounds that his an­swers might in­crim­i­nate him.

He even ex­er­cised his right to re­main silent when Ali­son He­witt, coun­sel to the in­quest into Poppi’s death, put to him: “To the point that you came down­stairs with Poppi, not breath­ing, in your arms, you are the only per­son that can ac­count for those events.”

A High Court judge pre­vi­ously ruled that he prob­a­bly sex­u­ally as­saulted his 13-month-old daugh­ter be­fore tak­ing her body down­stairs to her mother, who was sleep­ing on the sofa, and get­ting her to call an ambulance at 6am.

A litany of po­lice fail­ings means that

‘It is not like on TV, when in­ter­viewed by po­lice and you can go “no com­ment” all the way through’

there is in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to charge him with any of­fence. The in­quest was the only chance that he would have to de­fend him­self in open court. How­ever, Mr Wor­thing­ton re­fused to an­swer dozens of con­sec­u­tive ques­tions about what hap­pened on the morn­ing of Poppi’s death on Dec 12, 2012.

Mr Wor­thing­ton, whose ev­i­dence had been due to be­gin at 10am, took to the wit­ness box at around 3pm, af­ter pro­ceed­ings were de­layed by a re­quest from his lawyers to screen him from both press and pub­lic on the grounds that it would breach his hu­man rights and raise con­cerns for his safety.

Paul Clark, rep­re­sent­ing him, said: “There has been a long-term po­si­tion of great vul­ner­a­bil­ity and risk and as a re­sult there is a long-term po­si­tion of wit­ness pro­tec­tion whereby his cur­rent ap­pear­ance and lo­ca­tion are un­known.”

It is un­clear what form the wit­ness pro­tec­tion takes. His fam­ily have pre­vi­ously said he left his home town of Bar­row-in-fur­ness af­ter the judge ruled that he had as­saulted Poppi.

As he even­tu­ally took to the wit­ness box, screened from the pub­lic but not the press, he re­fused to an­swer the first ques­tion, about whether he started a re­la­tion­ship with Poppi’s mother in 2009, say­ing: “I re­fer to my pre­vi­ous state­ments. I rely on my right not to an­swer un­der rule 22.”

David Roberts, the se­nior coroner, told him the ques­tion did not in­crim­i­nate him and there­fore he could not refuse, adding: “It is not like you have seen on TV, or per­haps in your own ex­pe­ri­ence, when you are in­ter­viewed by po­lice in the po­lice sta­tion and you can go ‘no com­ment’ all the way through.”

Mr Wor­thing­ton con­firmed his re­la­tion­ship with Poppi’s mother was “on and off ” and their chil­dren – Poppi, her twin and an older sib­ling born in 2010 – were all un­planned. He said that the cou­ple ar­gued over his gam­bling and watch­ing of sport. The mother, who can­not be named for le­gal rea­sons, sat in court hold­ing her head in her hands. She walked out in dis­gust as Ms He­witt moved on to the events of Dec 11 and 12 when the coroner ad­vised her for­mer part­ner that as they were cru­cial days in the case he was “not obliged to an­swer”.

Mr Wor­thing­ton re­fused to even con­firm that he had made state­ments to the po­lice. When asked about ev­i­dence that he had given to the High Court that he had watched “X-rated adult stuff” on his lap­top in bed the night be­fore Poppi’s death, he re­fused to elab­o­rate on what type of pornog­ra­phy he had viewed.

De­spite ear­lier claims that his life would be un­der threat if he were to at­tend court, the two mem­bers of the pub­lic watch­ing the hear­ing qui­etly from the pub­lic gallery were vastly out­num­bered by of­fi­cers in uni­forms.

Mr Wor­thing­ton had ear­lier been bun­dled into court by three po­lice of­fi­cers who cov­ered him as he ran into the build­ing with a hooded jumper and a scarf cov­er­ing his face.

The po­lice, who have come un­der heavy crit­i­cism in the case, had used a marked van as a de­coy to dis­tract the wait­ing press while he was driven to an­other back door in an un­marked van.

In Jan­uary 2016, fam­ily court judge Mr Jus­tice Peter Jack­son, now Lord Jus­tice Peter Jack­son, made pub­lic his con­clu­sion that Mr Wor­thing­ton prob­a­bly sex­u­ally as­saulted Poppi.

Po­lice er­rors, in­clud­ing the fail­ure to se­cure the scene and re­tain a nappy that Poppi was wear­ing, and not launch­ing a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for more than seven months, meant pros­e­cu­tors had to rule there was “in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence” to bring charges. Mr Wor­thing­ton’s ev­i­dence re­sumes to­day.

Po­lice lead Paul Wor­thing­ton to the doors of the coroner’s court in Ken­dal, Cum­bria, yes­ter­day. He re­fused to an­swer dozens of ques­tions put to him by coroner and coun­sel

Poppi Wor­thing­ton was 13 months old when she died on Dec 12, 2012, prob­a­bly af­ter a sex­ual as­sault

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