Lia Green’s parents have been branded ‘liars’ by police after the tragic toddler’s mum was found guilty of child cruelty.
The three-year-old died on August 30 last year after suffering severe internal injuries at the hands of her dad Richard Green, 23, of Harling Road, Ribbleton, Preston, who last month pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
And yesterday a jury at Preston’s Sessions House took just two hours to find Natalie Critchley guilty of wilfully neglecting Lia.
Critchley, 21, of Norris Street, Plungington, Preston, broke down as the unanimous verdict was returned.
Speaking afterwards, Det Supt Andy Murphy said the couple had told a “concoction of lies”.
He said: “Natalie Critchley failed in her duty as a mother - to care for and save from harm her little girl.”
Detectives said the probe into the tot’s death was “particularly challenging” because they were hindered by the lies of her parents.
Richard Green was described as “arrogant and unhelpful” in interview, while Natalie Critchley was portrayed as “self-obsessed”.
Around 50 officers worked on the case from the Force Major Incident Team offices in Preston, where pictures of the pretty little girl are pinned on the wall, alongside mugshots of Green and Critchley.
Det Supt Andy Murphy, senior investigating officer in the case, said: “The most complex thing about this investigation was not only that a three-year-old had died, and all the emotion that comes with that, but that her parents persistently lied.
“Sadly, the person who knew the most about what happened is dead.
“The most critical thing in dealing with the family was to establish were they grieving parents or suspects.
“Their reaction was difficult to interpret, was it grief or were they guilty?
“Both of them cried in their interviews, but you got the feeling they were selfish tears for themselves and their own discomfort of being in the police station.”
After Green pleaded guilty to Lia’s manslaughter, Critchley’s charge was changed to one of child cruelty.
Det Supt Murphy said: “We were seeking an explanation from both of them but what has been shown by Green’s plea is what they both told us was marred with lies and deceit.
“It was a case of cutting through those lies and establishing the true facts, which has been difficult because they have just not assisted us.
“The paediatrician explained to officers in some detail that the events Richard and Natalie were talking about just couldn’t have happened - it is impossible.
“The way we established what had happened was through pathological evidence.
“The paediatrician explained to officers in some detail the events that Richard and Natalie were talking about just couldn’t have happened, it is impossible. Lia couldn’t have sat up and wouldn’t have been hungry.
“There is even some evidence that she was dead for longer than they said, though that is not conclusive.
“Up to the trial the family were supportive of both of them, I suppose they were convinced by their lies and deceit.”
He said he was pleased with the verdict but there were “no winners” in the case.
He added: “Lia had her whole life ahead of her and the people who should have been protecting her have let her down in an unthinkable and unimaginable way.”
The four women and eight men of the jury asked to hear Critchley and Green’s 999 call one last time before reaching their verdict.
An hour later when her guilt was confirmed the mum dropped and shook her head and started to cry.
The couple are expected to be sentenced on May 24.
However, Critchley’s family insisted she was “innocent”.
Her mum, Jackie Critchley said: “The injury happened when Natalie was at work and that’s all I know.
“My daughter is innocent. We are going to fight for her because she has done nothing wrong.”
A serious case review looking at the role of agencies including Social Services, who came into contact with the youngster before she died, will be launched to see if lessons can be learnt from Lia’s death.
Nigel Burke, independent chairman of Lancashire Safeguarding Children Board, said: “I would like to send our sympathy and condolences to the families involved in this very sad case.
“A serious case review has been commissioned into this child’s tragic death and it will be published in due course after we have been able to share its findings with family members.”
Serious case reviews are usually carried out when a child dies and abuse or neglect is known or suspected to be a factor in the death.