Poppi Worthington: Toddler was Sexually Assaulted by Father Before Death, Coroner Rules
Toddler Poppi Worthington was sexually assaulted by her father before she died, a coroner has ruled, finding her death was caused by asphyxia.
Coroner David Roberts said Paul Worthington assaulted his daughter in his bed, laid a cover over her and went to sleep.
He said she died because her ability to breathe was compromised as a result of "an unsafe sleeping environment."
Mr Roberts said her father's account of events did not "stand up to scrutiny".
During the three-week inquest at Kendal Coroner's Court, Poppi's father declined to answer 252 questions relating to the circumstances surrounding her death on 12 December 2012.
However, Mr Worthington did tell the hearing he had gone to get Poppi a fresh nappy and a few minutes later he reached over and found her limp.
He said he rushed downstairs and Poppi's mother, who was asleep there, called an ambulance.
The 13-month-old was pronounced dead at Furness General Hospital shortly after.
Having heard contradictory evidence from expert medical witnesses, Mr Roberts said he believed Mr Worthington sexually assaulted Poppi, probably with a finger, and the assault stopped when the youngster cried out in pain.
He 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.
He said: "Although I have found, on the balance of probabilities, that Poppi was anally penetrated prior to her death, I have also found that she did not die in the course of or immediately following the penetration and the penetration did not cause her death."
Mr Roberts added Poppi was suffering from an upper respiratory tract infection which, along with being placed in her father's bed, compromised her ability to breathe.
A "short-form accidental death" verdict was also considered but ruled out as inappropriate as he did not conclude the death had resulted from an "unintended act or omission or is the unintended consequence of a deliberate act or omission".
Lawyers acting for Mr Worthington, 50, said he was "considering his options".
In January 2016 - as part of family court proceedings - a judge revealed in his findings that Mr Worthington "probably" sexually assaulted his daughter shortly before her death.