Father implicated by judge smuggled into Poppi inquest through back door

A man who a judge ruled had probably sexually assaulted his 13-month-old daughter before her death has been smuggled into court with a police escort ahead of him giving evidence at her inquest.

Paul Worthington scurried in through the back door of County Hall in Kendal, shielded by police officers and pursued by press photographers and reporters.

The 49-year-old is due to appear as the main witness in the second inquest into the death of Poppi, who collapsed suddenly at her Barrow-in-Furness home on December 12 2012.

Poppi Worthington
Poppi Worthington (Family Handout/PA)

Staff at the court also taped paper over the windows of the building to stop anyone seeing in.

Mr Worthington has been in hiding since January 2016 when family court judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson, now Lord Justice Peter Jackson, made public his conclusion that he probably sexually assaulted his toddler daughter before her collapse.

He said Poppi's "significant bleeding" within 15 minutes of the 999 call made from the family home could only be sensibly explained as the result of penetrative trauma.

A police investigation launched after Poppi's death was botched by Cumbria Police, with vital evidence discarded and witnesses not interviewed until months later.

Mr Worthington strenuously denies any wrongdoing and has never been charged with any offence.

Windows at Kendal County Hall are covered up ahead of the arrival of Poppi Worthington's father
Windows at Kendal County Hall are covered up ahead of the arrival of Poppi Worthington's father (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The second inquest was ordered after the controversial first hearing, held by a different coroner, was shrouded in secrecy and lasted just seven minutes.

Wednesday's hearing was expected to begin with legal argument between lawyers for the press and lawyers for Mr Worthington over whether he will give evidence from behind a screen.

Earlier the inquest, which began on Monday, heard a harrowing 999 call from the girl's mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, as her daughter lay dying.

This fresh inquest was ordered by the High Court after the controversial first hearing in 2014, held by a different coroner, was shrouded in secrecy with Poppi listed as "a child aged 13 months".

Shortly before 6am on the day of her death, Mr Worthington, who had put Poppi in his bed with him, went downstairs with her lifeless body and emergency services were called.

Poppi Worthington's father, Paul Worthington, arrives at Kendal County Hall
Poppi Worthington's father, Paul Worthington, arrives at Kendal County Hall (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Little over an hour later, at 7.07am, Poppi was pronounced dead at Furness General Hospital, just a day after she had taken her first two steps.

Poppi's mother was frequently visibly distressed as she gave evidence earlier this week, describing her relationship with the toddler's father as "up and down".

She described her daughter as "very alive, bubbly".

"You knew she was there, there was no missing her," she said.

The botched police investigation meant that the cause of Poppi's death has remained "unascertained".

The current inquest, presided over by senior coroner for Cumbria David Roberts, is scheduled to last up to four weeks.

A Cumbria Constabulary spokesman said: "Cumbria Constabulary this morning assisted in the arrival of Paul Worthington to Kendal County Hall, where he is due to give evidence at an inquest.

"Security arrangements have been in place for Mr Worthington following threats made towards him. To ensure Mr Worthington's safe arrival, a number of police resources were in place."

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