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Pair face child cruelty sentencing over girl's death

Two drug dealers who allowed a four-year-old girl to eat drugs, including diazepam, heroin, methadone and ketamine for up to six months before her death will be sentenced later for child cruelty.

Hull Crown Court has heard how Michala Pyke fed her daughter, Poppy Widdison, sedatives because she was an "inconvenience" to her relationship with John Rytting.

Poppy died in June 2013 after suffering a cardiac arrest at Rytting's "squalid" home, in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, where prescription and controlled drugs were "left lying around".

A post-mortem examination could not establish a cause of death but toxicology tests carried out on her blood and hair found various drugs, and showed the young girl had been exposed to and had ingested significant amounts of heroin and methadone for a period of between two and six months before her death.

David Gordon, prosecuting, told a trial that text messages between the pair discussing Poppy having a "blue Smartie" - a reference to the sedative diazapam - and going to sleep showed that Pyke viewed Poppy as an "inconvenience, who she felt was in the way with regards her relationship".

Earlier this week, Katherine Goddard, defending Pyke, said her client faced the "realisation she has every day that ultimately she is responsible for the death of her daughter, morally, if not in law".

Describing her client as "a damaged and troubled individual", Ms Goddard said: "Until Michala Pyke began the relationship with John Rytting, however difficult life was, Poppy was generally well cared for and those in positions of authority and responsibility were content with the levels of care she received.

"But it was at the start of that relationship, a relationship that was toxic in every sense of the word, which brought out the worst in Michala Pyke."

In mitigation for Rytting, Timothy Roberts QC said the local drug supplier's culpability was less than Pyke's as he was only in a position of responsibility for Poppy in the last six weeks of her life, while experts claimed she had been given drugs for up to six months.

He said: "Michala Pyke had primary caring responsibility for her daughter and it's not without significance that the scientific evidence indicated that, over a six-month period, there had been an ingestion of prescribed drugs."

But Ms Goddard said two drugs found in all sections of Poppy's hair were prescribed only to Rytting, who has a number of previous convictions, including jail sentences for burglary and grievous bodily harm with intent.

Adjourning the sentencing, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC said: "Make no mistake, the sentence in respect of each of you will be of some substance but it's important that I calibrate the sentence with some care."

He continued: "I now have a significant period of time to reflect upon the powerful submissions that have been made on your behalf."

Both defendants will be sentenced for child cruelty by allowing Poppy to be accommodated in a house where prescribed and controlled drugs were unsecured and within reach of the child and by encouraging her to ingest prescription and/or controlled drugs.

Pyke, 38, also faces sentencing for child cruelty by emotional abuse, possession of methadone with intent to supply and supplying the same drug.

Rytting, 40, will be sentenced for importing drugs, two counts of supplying controlled drugs and one count of possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

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