Ellie May death trial: Mum and ex boyfriend guilty of allowing toddler's death in 'monstrous cage'

A young Preston mum and her former boyfriend have been convicted of causing or allowing the death of toddler Ellie-May.

Friday, 2nd November 2018, 11:29 am
Updated Friday, 2nd November 2018, 3:23 pm
Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle died at her home in Lostock Hall
Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle died at her home in Lostock Hall

Lauren Coyle and her then boyfriend Reece Hitchott were cleared on manslaughter over the little girl's death, but convicted of causing or allowing her death, and two charges of child cruelty.

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Nineteen-month-old Ellie May was found dead tied up in a monstrous 'cage bed' at her home in Ward Street, Lostock Hall.

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Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle died at her home in Lostock Hall

The jury at Liverpool Crown Court, which took almost seven and a half hours to reach their verdicts today, heard during the four week trial how the little child tragically died after being forcibly restrained face down by ligatures in her ‘Frozen’ themed toddler bed, which had been turned into a “monstrous cage.”

Her ankles had also been bound together and she would have suffered “immense suffering, distress and upset”, said prosecuting QC Christopher Tehrani.

Being restrained in face down position would have compromised her breathing and a duvet placed over her is thought to have caused hyperthermia. She was found unresponsive in her bed, to which was lashed the slats from her cot and over which sheets and towels were draped.

Lauren Coyle and Reece Hitchott

The couple’s lodger at the time of the death on March 23 last year, Connor Kirby, 20, of Octavia Court, Huyton, Liverpool, was cleared of all the charges but has been further remanded in custody as he faces sentence for an aggravated burglary committed after that date.

The judge, Mr Justice Dove, warned 19-year-old Coyle, who wept before the verdicts were announced, and Hitchcott, that renewing their bail was no indication of what the sentence will be.

Sentence on Coyle, of Collins Road, Bamber Bridge, and Hitchcott, 20, of The Fieldings, Fulwood, Preston, has been adjourned to enable pre-sentence reports to be prepared.

The flat in Ward Street, Lostock Hall

The child cruelty oftences involve “caging” Ellie-May in her bed, and restraining her in the bed.

Hitchcott, who moved into the flat in Ward Street, Lostock Hall, Preston on the same day as Ellie-May’s dad moved out, less than three months before Ellie-May’s death, has blamed Coyle for her death and she blamed him.

Hitchcott, who was spending £150 a week on cannabis, admitted constructing the cage around two sides of her bed, helped by Kirby, to prevent her from falling out but denied tying her to the mattress.

The prosecution said that a pink and a blue blanket had been used around her chest and legs and a piece of black material bound around her ankles.

Brett Gerrity, from the CPS, said: “This is a tragic case in which a young and innocent child was treated in the worst possible way by those who should have kept her safe from harm.

“During the trial the prosecution proved that by restraining Ellie-May in her bed, or knowing that she had been restrained in such a way, Lauren Coyle and Reece Hitchcott wilfully contributed to or directly caused her untimely death.

“Throughout the case the defendants denied responsibility for causing her death and blamed each other, but today the jury have found the child’s mother and her partner guilty of causing her death and neglecting her.

“I would like to express my sympathy to Ellie-May’s family and loved ones.”