The former lover of a Preston woman, whose toddler died after being restrained in a “monstrous” caged bed, denied that he and their lodger tied the helpless child to her bed.
Reece Hitchcott has told a manslaughter jury how he would put 19-month-old Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle to bed helped by Connor Kirby, who used his mobile phone as a torch after accidentally breaking a bedside lamp two weeks before her death and there was no bulb in the overhead light.
Christopher Tehrani, QC, prosecuting, suggested that no-one cared enough about Ellie-May to spend £5 on a light bulb for the toddler’s room or move one from another room. Hitchcott responded that they did care about her.
Mr Tehrani also asked why it took him and Kirby to put the little girl to bed saying, “Was it easier to tie her up?”
Hitchcott, 20, replied, “No, to put her to bed and see what I was doing.”
Liverpool Crown Court has heard allegations that the child had been tied down in the bed by the pink and blue blankets and died due to “forcible restraint by ligatures in a face down position” possibly complicated by hyperthermia”.
Sheets and towels had been draped over the “cage” so that the little girl could not see out.
Asked by Mr Tehrani, “Did you feel sorry for her not being able to see through the bars (of the bed)?, Hitchcott replied, “yes.”
He said that the child’s mum Lauren Coyle had wanted the “cage” to stay up around the bed and denied that Kirby had come with him to put her to bed that night and on earlier occasions to help restrain her.
Hitchcott has denied tying her to the mattress of her ‘Frozen’ themed purple plastic bed and binding her ankles together and her wrists to the cot slats which he had lashed to the side of the bed making the enclosure. He told the court Coyle was responsible.
Hitchcott has told how he had found the child unresponsive in the bed at about 9.30 am on March 23 last year.
He said he had put her to bed, along with Kirby, also now 20, in the flat they shared in Ward Street, Lostock Hall, Preston, the previous evening and they had both told her they loved her and she said she loved them.
Coyle, 19, 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.