THE mum of tragic Poppi Worthington demanded the toddler’s dad face trial after a coroner ruled he sexually assaulted her before she died.
Paul Worthington, 50, has dodged charges for five years after bungling police failed to collect forensic evidence when the 13-month-old choked in bed in Barrow-in-Furness.
A coroner added “Only he knows what went on upstairs.”
He said Worthington stopped the sickening attack when the 13-month-old girl cried out in pain, then laid a cover over her and went to sleep.
Coroner David Roberts said she then choked to death because of the “unsafe sleeping environment.”
He said he could not say she was unlawfully killed because he was not sure Poppi’s death was murder or manslaughter.
Worthington has dodged a criminal trial for five years because of a bungled police investigation that failed to collect vital evidence.
And during the inquest Worthing declined to answer 252 questions about Poppi’s death.
But Mr Roberts’ ruling on the attack may now open the door for Worthington to face sex assault charges.
Two fact-finding judgments in the family court have previously found that, on the balance of probabilities, Worthington assaulted Poppi.
After the hearing police chiefs said they would urgently discuss the inquest’s findings with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Fiona McGhie, lawyer for Poppi’s mum, said: “The last five years have been a complete nightmare for my client.
“This is the third time a court has found that on the balance of probabilities, that Poppi was anally penetrated prior to death.
“My client now hopes the Crown Prosecution Service will take another look at this case.
“She is disappointed Poppi’s father chose to rely on his right not to answer questions which may incriminate him.
“He should have given the crucial evidence.”
Mr Roberts said he was satisfied Worthington sexually abused Poppi after watching porn on his laptop as her mother slept downstairs.
He added: “At some time after 2.30am Poppi was taken from her cot and placed in or on the double bed, probably with her dummy and bottle.
“Her pyjama bottoms and nappy were removed and she was anally penetrated, probably digitally. As a result, Poppi cried out loudly and this probably brought the penetration to an end.”
The toddler’s screams were so loud they woke her mum.
She went back to sleep — and was woken again just before 6am as Worthington came running down stairs carrying Poppi and yelling: “She’s not breathing.”
The mother dialled 999 and paramedics took Poppi to hospital but efforts to revive her failed.
Mr Roberts said Poppi, who had a respiratory infection that affected her breathing, was dead from asphyxia before she left the house in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
He said Worthington’s account of Poppi’s final hours did not “stand up to scrutiny.” He told the hearing at Kendal Coroner’s Court: “Only Paul Worthington can provide an account of what happened upstairs between about 2.30am and 5.56am.”
As the coroner spoke Poppi’s mum fled the hearing in tears.
After Poppi’s death police failed to secure forensic evidence. They did not take her nappy, pyjama bottoms, her pillow or the bed sheet.
WHAT COPS MISSED
The coroner says Poppi was 'anally penetrated'Worthington’s laptop was not seized — and he was not arrested until eight months after the toddler’s death.
Prosecutors later said the lack of evidence made it impossible to bring charges.
An initial inquest in October 2014 lasted just seven minutes, called for no evidence and ruled that the toddler’s death was unexplained.
It was later ruled “irregular” and a second hearing ordered.
Poppi's dad Paul Worthington has been placed in the witness protection programme, with the 24-hour coverage costing taxpayers £50,000 a year.
Worthington claims he needs to be kept out of the public eye as he 'fears for his life' and his lawyers say he is in a 'long-term position of great vulnerability and risk'.
The case was made by Worthington's legal team was based on human rights laws and he was allowed to give evidence at the inquest behind a 7ft screen to protect him from the public.
Cumbria’s Chief Constable Jerry Graham said: “We will be having an early discussion with the CPS in order to determine possible courses of action.”
He apologised for the bungled police inquiry, adding: “Poppi and her family deserved a better standard of investigation than the one that was conducted five years ago.”
Barrow MP John Woodcock said he feared Poppi may never get justice because of the “grotesque” police failings.
He added: “I am today writing to the Home Secretary to demand she establishes a public inquiry.”
Snubbed 252 questions
GRINNING Paul Worthington refused to answer 252 questions at his daughter’s inquest, reducing Poppi’s mum to tears.
He used Rule 22 which gives any witness the right not to answer a question if it is likely to incriminate them.
Each time he was quizzed, even on basic questions about Poppi’s routine, he said: “I rely on my right under Rule 22.”
He was hidden behind a 7ft screen as he was questioned in the coroner’s court.
Ex-supermarket worker Worthington has been living in hiding since Poppi died and has received death threats.
His solicitor Kelly Darlington said: “Mr Worthington is considering his options following the coroner’s conclusion today.
“We we are advising him not to say anything further.”
POPPI Worthington was failed by a catalogue of police blunders from start to finish.
First officers failed to declare the house a crime scene until hours after she had died.
Then they failed to collect vital evidence such as Poppi’s clothing, bedsheets, pillows — and even the laptop Paul Worthington had been using to watch pornography.
Detective Inspector Amanda Sadler, an ex-beauty queen, was the Senior Investigating Officer.
But she claimed she had been inadequately trained for the job and blamed her boss Detective Chief Inspector Mike Forrester.
Both were later criticised in an Independent Police Complaints Commission report. She was demoted and has since retired.
Forrester retired before the report was published.
A third officer, never identified, was also demoted.
The report said the two senior officers had been “unstructured and disorganised”.
It added: “It is clear from the evidence presented that Cumbria Constabulary’s original inquiry was not fit for purpose.”
IPCC investigator Tim Kimber said he believed the officers had cases to answer for gross misconduct.
Both Sadler and Forrester kept their pensions. His is believed to be £50,000-a-year.
The ex-officers refused to comment after yesterday’s inquest ruling. But Cumbria’s Chief Constable Jerry Graham said: “It is our job to search for the truth.
“We failed to do that. It was a flawed investigation from start to finish and I bitterly regret that.”
https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thesun.co.uk%2Fnews%2F5348827%2Fpoppi-mum-paul-worthington-trial-sexual-assualt%2F&text=Poppi's%20mum%20blasts%20tot's%20dad%20to%20face%20trial%20for%20sexual%20assault” target=”_blank” title=”Click to share on Twitter