Poppi Worthington’s father broke down in tears as he refused to say why his daughter’s DNA was on his penis.
Paul Worthington described 13-month-old Poppi as a ‘bully’, and refused 252 times to answer questions about her sudden death.
His voice broke with emotion as he sat in the witness box at her inquest, refusing to answer questions about the unexplained death of the child in the early hours of December 12, 2012.
However, asked to describe ‘the child he knew’, he replied: ‘Lively. Bubbly. The happy one out of the siblings. Bully in her own little way.’
The former supermarket nightshift worker has been in hiding for up to two years since a family court judge made public his conclusion that Mr Worthington, 49, probably sexually assaulted his daughter before her collapse.
However, a botched investigation by Cumbria Police meant vital evidence was lost. Mr Worthington has never been charged with an offence, and denies any wrongdoing.
Over two sessions, two hours on Wednesday afternoon and two hours on Thursday at the inquest at County Hall in Kendal, Mr Worthington declined to answer the majority of questions posed to him by counsel to the inquest Alison Hewitt.
Under Rule 22 of the Coroners (Inquests) Rules 2013, he was told he was not obliged to answer any questions that could incriminate him.
Mr Worthington responded to 252 questions with the same answer: ‘I refer to my previous statements under Rule 22.’
Poppi’s mother, his former partner, sat yards away in the courtroom with her head in her hands.
But Mr Worthington’s voice faltered as he continued to give the same answer to Miss Hewitt’s questions regarding the events of that night.
In the early hours of December 12, 2012, Poppi’s mother was asleep downstairs when she heard a scream, followed shortly by Mr Worthington coming down to get a clean nappy.
Soon afterwards, Mr Worthington rushed back downstairs holding his lifeless daughter and shouting at her mum to call for an ambulance, the inquest heard.
The second inquest into Poppi’s death was ordered after the first hearing – held by a different coroner – was shrouded in secrecy and only lasted seven minutes.
Poppi was listed as ‘a child aged 13 months’ at the first inquest in 2014, and her death was declared ‘unexplained’.
But in a fact-finding judgment as part of care proceedings involving Poppi’s siblings, family court judge Mr Justice Peter Jackson – now Lord Justice Peter Jackson – said Poppi’s ‘signficant bleeding’ within 15 minutes of the 999 call made from the family home could only be explained sensibly as the result of penetrative trauma.
On Thursday, Mr Worthington was also asked about Poppi’s DNA being found on his penis, which he has previously claimed was by transfer from him holding the child, then going to the toilet at the hospital.
Ms Hewitt asked him whether he was ‘aware of the view expressed by at least one pathologist that the findings of the postmortem suggest that there had been penetration of Poppi’s anus’.
She continued: ‘Did you at any time place Poppi in a position where her face was pushed into a pillow? Or put your hand or an object over her face?’
Mr Worthington replied, quietly: ‘I refer to my earlier statements, Rule 22.’
Kate Stone, representing Poppi’s mother, asked him: ‘Why did you hurt your daughter, Mr Worthington?’
The witness shook his head and gave the stock reply he had used before.
Coroner David Roberts completed the questions, telling the witness it was his legal right not to answer.
But he added: ‘That said, today is an opportunity for you to tell me anything you think may help me understand how Poppi came by her death.
‘So I don’t want you to leave court thinking you have not had the opportunity to tell me what happened as best you can remember about the facts of those hours.
‘It’s an opportunity. Is there anything else you would like to tell me?’
Mr Worthington replied: ‘No sir.’
The hearing continues.