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