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Ellie-May death: Grandmother says 'cage' bed was 'horrific'

Lauren Coyle
Lauren Coyle

A grandmother has told a court that a "cage" bed her granddaughter died in after allegedly being bound and forced to sleep face down was "horrific".

Louise Coyle thought the child may smother herself after visiting the home of her daughter Lauren Coyle, 19, and her baby, Ellie-May Minshull Coyle, aged 19 months, a week before the toddler died, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Reece Hitchcott

Reece Hitchcott

She was shown the purple bed the "mischievous" and "bubbly" toddler slept in, a purple Frozen bed based on the Disney children's film, which was allegedly turned into a "monstrous cage" by the child's stepfather, Reece Hitchcott, 20, with the help of their lodger, Connor Kirby, 20.

Christopher Tehrani QC, prosecuting, asked the witness: "Was there anything that struck you as you walked into the bedroom?"

Mrs Coyle replied: "I just could not believe it. It was horrific.

"Reece said they had put a bed up. He asked me to go into the bedroom. He said he had made a bed for Ellie, so I went in and straight away I told him it was dangerous.

"I saw a Frozen bed, and he put some cot rails along the side of the bed, I don't know how they put them on, but there was blankets draped over the side of the rails and I told him he needed to take that bed down because it was dangerous and she could smother herself under the covers.

"I just thought he would have took it down anyway."

Ellie-May was allegedly tied to the mattress of her bed with tight ligatures across her chest and legs and a duvet placed over her.

Her bed had been pushed against a wall and the open sides enclosed by the slatted sides of a cot lashed together with ligatures and electrical flex and tied to the bed frame, the court was told.

Sheets and bedding were placed over the sides to prevent her seeing outside, no lights were working inside her bedroom and a mattress and sheet were also covering the window, the court heard.

Her ankles were also tied together, it was alleged, and the sleeping position compromised her breathing causing her death, a jury of six men and six women were told.

There were also marks on the child's wrists and ankles, suggesting she had been tied to the "cage" at some point, the court heard.

It is alleged the child's mother, stepfather and lodger living with the child in the two-bedroom flat at Ward Street, in Lostock Hall, Preston, all knew what was going on.

All three deny manslaughter on March 23 last year.

Mrs Coyle said she thought she also spoke to her daughter about the bed "contraption".

Mr Tehrani asked: "Did she ever mention about bars being around Ellie-May's bed?"

The witness replied: "No."

A post-mortem examination concluded the child's death was caused by "forcible restraint by ligatures in a face down position complicated by hyperthermia".

Coyle, of Collins Road, Bamber Bridge, Preston, Hitchcott, of The Fieldings, Fulwood, Preston, and Kirby, of Octavia Court, Huyton, Liverpool, have all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

They also each deny a count of causing or allowing the death of the child, one count of child cruelty by "caging" the child in her bed and another count of child cruelty by restraining her in the bed.

The trial continues.