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Poppy, four, died at hands of mother or her boyfriend, court rules

A four-year-old girl died at the hands of her drug addict mother or her boyfriend when she was assaulted after being subjected to months of cruelty, a family court judge has ruled.

Poppy Widdison was either shaken or suffered a blow to the head in the attack by either Michala Pyke or John Rytting, Judge Clive Heaton QC said at the hearing held at Hull Crown Court.

Judge Heaton said either Pyke or Rytting was responsible for the girl's death but could not rule which of them carried out the fatal assault because they refused to tell the truth.

Pyke, 38, and Rytting, 40, were each jailed for 13 years on Thursday for drugs offences and child cruelty after being found guilty of feeding sedatives to Poppy because they viewed her as an inconvenience to their relationship.

Neither defendant attended court on Friday, with Pyke telling a security officer who informed her she was due to return for the hearing: "I've just been given 13 years and my head's up my arse", the court heard.

At the hearing, Judge Heaton said one of the pair assaulted Poppy in Rytting's flat in Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, on the morning of June 9 2013.

The assault, described in court as a "shaking or shaking impact type event", resulted in Poppy suffering respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest. She died the following day.

Judge Heaton said: "I unhesitatingly come to the conclusion that Poppy Widdison was subjected to a serious traumatic event on the morning of June 9 shortly before 8.41am.

"The event was some form of physical assault which inflicted injury upon Poppy."

He added: "She died as a result of the assault."

The judge said Pyke and Rytting concealed what happened to Poppy in order to protect themselves but that both knew how the young girl had died.

He said: " It's not possible to say whether the mother acted alone or Rytting alone or whether they were both involved and what role each played.

"I am entirely satisfied, however, to the appropriate standard of proof that both knew what happened in the flat that morning.

"Having reflected carefully on the matter, I have come to the conclusion I can't identify either of the two adults as the perpetrator of this traumatic event. Both of them end up in the pool."

Judge Heaton said medical experts had described the case as "difficult" and had come to different conclusions about the cause of Poppy's injuries, including bleeding behind her eyes.

But he concluded that the bleeding was caused by the "traumatic event" and also that bruising to Poppy's buttocks and lower back was caused by "a beating" and not by playing on a trampoline, as suggested by Pyke.

Judge Heaton said it was in the public interest that he resolved factual issues, including the circumstances in which Poppy lost her life.

Drug dealers Pyke and Rytting were charged and convicted for child cruelty by allowing Poppy to eat drugs, including diazapam, heroin, methadone and ketamine, and by allowing Poppy to live in Rytting's squalid flat in Oliver Court, where prescribed and controlled drugs were "left lying around". Pyke was also charged with child cruelty by emotional abuse.

A count of child cruelty by assault causing bruising against both defendants was dropped by the prosecution during the trial.

A post-mortem examination could not establish a cause of death and the Crown Prosecution Service, which make decisions based on a higher standard of proof than the family court, decided it could not charge Pyke and Rytting with any offences relating directly to Poppy's death.

On Thursday, in the crown court, Judge Jeremy Richardson QC, said Pyke was "utterly unfit to be a mother".

A serious case review into agencies' involvement in Poppy's life identified a number of missed opportunities to better protect Poppy before she was born and in the period after.

As a result of the case, Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield said she will be investigating variations around the country in when social workers decide to intervene in families.

She said: "Tragically, failure to apply appropriate thresholds for intervention meant that Poppy was left unprotected from cruelty and ultimate death.

"Over the next year I shall be investigating the variable application of child protection thresholds around the country and making recommendations."


From Belfast Telegraph