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Father refuses to answer potentially incriminating questions at Poppi inquest

The former Asda supermarket worker has been in hiding for about two years.

The father of Poppi Worthington refused to answer questions 69 times as he gave evidence at the fresh inquest into his daughter’s death, invoking a rule on potential self-incrimination.

Paul Worthington, 49, repeatedly said: “I refer to my previous statements, I don’t wish to answer” to questions posed at the second coronial hearing into the circumstances surrounding the 13-month-old girl’s death in December 2012.

The former Asda supermarket worker has been in hiding for about two years since a family court judge ruled he probably sexually assaulted Poppi before she collapsed at her home in Barrow-in-Furness and died in hospital more than a hour later.

Screened from the public gallery but not members of the media, he was flanked by two male police officers in the courtroom at County Hall, Kendal as he started his evidence from the witness box.

Poppi Worthington (Family Handout/PA)

After he confirmed his full name, Paul Edward John Worthington, and that he was Poppi’s father, counsel to the inquest Alison Hewitt explained to him there would be “no trick questions”.

Miss Hewitt’s first question was to ask him to confirm that he started his relationship with Poppi’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in about 2009.

Mr Worthington calmly replied: “I refer you to my previous statements. I rely on the right not to answer that under Rule 22.”

HM Coroner for Cumbria, David Roberts, explained to him that under that section of the Coroners (Inquests) Rules 2013 he was not obliged to answer any questions tending to incriminate him .

Mr Roberts told the witness that Miss Hewitt’s first question was “perfectly straightforward”, not self-incriminating and he must answer.

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

Mr Worthington went on to confirm background details of the relationship with his ex-partner, including when Poppi’s mother became pregnant with her and that he later had a vasectomy in 2012.

But when the subject moved on to general sleeping arrangements in the household and how it would compare with the fateful events of the early hours of December 12 2012, Mr Worthington’s barrister, Leslie Thomas QC, raised the possibility that his replies could be incriminating.

Mr Roberts agreed and told the witness he was not obliged to answer questions on the matter.

Mr Worthington declined to comment about earlier statements and accounts on sleeping arrangements.

Then, Mr Roberts informed Mr Worthington he was not obliged to answer any questions about events on the dates of December 11 and December 12.

Mr Worthington elected to choose not to answer Miss Hewitt’s questions about similar previous statements he had made about those dates.

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

Poppi’s mother sat in court next to her legal team and held her head in her hands for the most part before leaving about 40 minutes into Mr Worthington’s evidence.

Mr Worthington smiled slightly when first giving his stock answer to the questions and smiled slightly again a number of times as he repeated the phrase throughout the afternoon hearing, lasting an hour and three quarters.

He used the same response to a series of apparently innocuous or non-contentious questions involving domestic arrangements and details he had already given in previous statements.

But he also refused to answer detailed questions about the minutes and hours leading up to the death of Poppi.

Miss Hewitt continued: “Do you agree that from 2am, 2.30am on the 12th of December that the events from that point onwards to you carrying Poppi downstairs not breathing, that you are the only person who can account for the events between the two times?”

Mr Worthington replied again: “I refer to my previous statements.”

Coroner Mr Roberts adjourned the hearing with the words: “It’s been a long day for everybody” and said the court will reconvene at 9.30am on Thursday with Mr Worthington continuing to face more questions.

The courtroom was cleared before police dealt with taking the witness out of the building where press cameras were waiting.


From Belfast Telegraph