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Police keep security arrangements secret ahead of Barrow baby death inquest

POLICE are remaining tight lipped over security arrangements for a high profile inquest into the sudden and suspicious death of a Barrow baby. The inquiry to establish how 13-month-old tot Poppi Worthington died is finally set to be heard from November 27 following a string of postponements and delays. But Cumbria Constabulary will not disclose whether they are set to provide extra protection for Poppi’s father; Paul Worthington – the man said by a High Court judge to have seriously sexually assaulted the youngster in the moments before her collapse.

Lawyers for the 49-year-old – a former Tesco supermarket worker – have claimed he now receives death threats on a ‘daily basis’. They had requested he be allowed to give evidence via videolink in a bid to ensure his safety. But the constabulary has refused to confirm whether the location has been inspected by officers ahead of the inquest – or whether Mr Worthington will be afforded additional security during the proceedings.

In response to a request submitted under the Freedom of Information Act, the force has stated it can neither ‘confirm or deny that it holds the information’ sought. Additionally, the Legal Aid Agency has confirmed the final amount set to be awarded to Mr Worthington is still not decided with less than a month to go before the inquest begins. The money will be used to pay for a high ranking barrister, expected to be Leslie Thomas QC, and a legal team.

Mr Worthington’s application for funding was turned down three times between 2015 and 2017 before eventually being granted under an ‘exceptional circumstances’ appeal. But a spokesman for the Legal Aid Agency, which refused to divulge the reason for each of the refusals, said: “I can confirm that legal aid has been granted for the representation of Paul Worthington at the upcoming inquest you refer to.

“However, the matter is still pending and so no costs have as yet been billed under this certificate.”

Tragic Poppi was found collapsed overnight at her Barrow home in December 2012 by Mr Worthington . She died soon after. No official cause of death has ever been recorded.

Well documented failings in the way the case was investigated by Cumbria police meant vital evidence was not secured, no formal interviews took place for ten months and no-one has ever been formally charged. Cumbria County Council, which failed to adequately protect Poppi’s siblings, then sought a High Court injunction to keep the whole matter secret for more than two decades. However the injunction was later overturned by a group of media organisations including CN Group.

In January 2016, Mr Justice Jackson concluded on balance of probability the youngster had been seriously sexually assaulted by Mr Worthington before her death. Mr Worthington has always denied any wrongdoing in relation to his daughter. The inquest is expected to last three weeks and will be heard by chief coroner for Cumbria, David Roberts.

It follows an ‘irregular’ first inquest in 2014 which lasted just seven minutes, heard no evidence and was eventually quashed by the High Court. Since then, a fresh inquiry into Poppi’s death has been cancelled at the last minute on two further occasions. The first was postponed to allow the little girl’s mother to seek a review of evidence held on the case by the Crown Prosecution Service.

A later hearing was delayed by Mr Worthington after he was granted legal aid just days before the complicated process was due to start.


:: Poppi was a 13-month old baby who lived in Barrow with her parents and siblings.

:: In December 2013, she was found collapsed at home by her father Paul and taken to Furness General Hospital by ambulance . She was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

:: A Home Office pathologist reported Poppi had sustained internal injuries before she died consistent with sexual abuse . However a formal cause of death has not been ascertained.

:: A High Court judge ruled that on balance of probability, Mr Worthington had sexually assaulted his daughter in the moments before her collapse.

:: Mr Worthington denies any wrongdoing.

:: An inquest is a legal hearing that establishes basic facts about an unexpected death.

:: These include who the person was, where they died and how they died.

:: The circumstances leading to the death are also uncovered.

:: It is presided over by a coroner.


:: A High Court judge ruled Mr Worthington had attacked his daughter before she died on balance of probability – the threshold required in civil court cases.

:: But Police failings in the case mean the case cannot be tested in the criminal courts.

:: Cumbria County Council bosses later tried to keep the case secret with a High Court super-injunction.

:: This will be the second inquest for Poppi . In a highly unusual move, the first hearing, held at Barrow Town Hall in 2014, was overturned after it was deemed ‘irregular’.

Graffiti attacks in Millom park spark calls for tougher security

A TOWN council has been advised to introduce new security measures in a public park after repeated acts of vandalism. Millom Town Council is discussing ways of preventing crime in Millom Park after it was daubed with graffiti on a number of occasions this month. Cumbria police have confirmed two reports of graffiti being sprayed on the path in the park on St George’s Road between October 7-10 and one more incident which saw graffiti being sprayed on the play equipment in the park between 9pm on October 13 and 8am on October 14.

Members of the council want to find ways to protect the park from more attacks. Councillor Ray Cole is frustrated by the damage and wants to highlight the issue with parents. He said: “We’re doing our best to spend public money wisely but things like this don’t help . Parents need to be made aware that they are the ones paying for this – not us.

“It’s members of the public who pay the precept and we could spend that money much more wisely elsewhere . We need to consider some security provision .

It could be CCTV or more lighting.

“It all costs money but it might be better to prevent it . We need to protect our assets.”

Councillors have discussed ideas such as installing CCTV, adding security lighting, sound deterrents or even restricting access. Councillor Denise Burness agreed with Cllr Cole and believes severe measures need to be taken. She said: “I totally agree with Councillor Cole that we need some security measures . I think CCTV might be a good idea .

Security lighting is a good idea but what’s the point ? It highlights that they are doing something but we can’t do anything else.”

In addition to introducing methods to improve security, councillors are also calling for major improvements to be made to the multi-use area. Youth councillor Ross Bawden reported in a meeting on Wednesday evening that young people in the town had complained about the state of the area.

He told councillors that complaints had been made about the fencing and the missing basketball boards and called for improvements to be made.

Cllr Burness reassured him that the council was “well aware” that it was something that needed to be tackled.

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Wookey Hole gets burgled days after security guard quits because it is too scary

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A tourist attraction has been burgled – days after a lone security guard quit in terror claiming a new cave is haunted.

Scared Stephen Wheeler has worked in security for 25 years but only lasted eight days at Wookey Hole in Somerset. He said a new huge cave which was opened this year spooked him and his Rottweiler Sherman so much they refused to patrol the new ‘Chamber 20’ labyrinth. Stephen said Sherman would flatly refuse to enter the cave and he often felt he was being watched or touched on the neck – or his torch batteries would suddenly run out.

The burly 45 year-old said: “Sherman isn’t fazed by anything but he didn’t want to go into that chamber. “I’ve done security work all over the place, in graveyards and film sets, he has always come with me and never been like this. “After 12 o’clock, as soon as we hit that tunnel, you just stop and get really nervous.

“Once we got into the chamber, you would hear noises but no-one was working in there. “I’m not someone who gets nervous but it made me nervous. “I always carry two torches with me, LED ones, and they both ran out of battery at the same time .

That doesn’t happen at all. “They have lights in there, site lights run on transformers, but they transformers kept blowing . They are designed to be there.

“I often felt like someone was watching over my shoulder all the time, especially in that cave. “I’ve also been poked in the back . I’m fairly sceptical but not when it comes to my dog and that cave.

“This is first time I’ve ever quit like this . I had a two-month contract but I just thought no . I’m not doing it any more.”

Stephen, from Easton, Bristol handed in his notice on the 16th October – and three days later burglars struck. The entrance doors were kicked open and a thief walked away with 400 cash, a charity box filled with change and souvenir items from the tourist attraction’s gift shop. The intruder was caught on CCTV and a 5,000 reward is on offer.

Stephen had been hired after an earlier attempted break-in on October 1st when five youths were foiled trying to get into the attraction. Wookey Hole said the new haunted cave was also affecting other staff. Manager and owner Dan Medley said: “It all started when we blew the cave open at the end of July.

“The rest of the cave system is fine, it is just literally this one chamber. “It’s made it hard for us to operate . The staff are wary of going in there on their own.

“Security staff are too scared to patrol it . When we say we want the whole site checked on, that is the one area they don’t like and leave. “When the last guard walked out, that’s when we got burgled .

I’m having to go around the whole site now myself but I’m not brave enough to go into chamber 20.”

This week’s midnight Halloween walk has also been cancelled as no staff want to work it.

References

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