'Cage bed' parents guilty over Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle death

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Ellie-May Minshull-CoyleImage source, Family handout
Image caption,
Marks on the Ellie-May's wrists and ankles suggested she had been tied to the bed, the jury heard

A woman and her ex-partner have been convicted of causing or allowing the death of a toddler who was tied to a "cage" bed.

Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle was 19 months old when she died in March last year.

Liverpool Crown Court heard her bed at the two-bedroom flat in Preston was "turned into a cage", with a mattress and sheet also covering the window.

Her mother Lauren Coyle, 19, and stepfather Reece Hitchcott, 20, were cleared of Ellie-May's manslaughter.

The jury found the pair guilty of causing or allowing Ellie-May's death, one count of child cruelty by "caging" her to a bed and another count of child cruelty by restraining her in the bed.

The trial heard the toddler's bed at the shared flat in Ward Street, Lostock Hall, had its open sides enclosed by the slatted sides of a cot lashed together with ligatures and electrical flex and tied to the bed frame.

Sheets and bedding over the sides prevented her seeing outside and no lights were working inside her bedroom, the court was told.

There were also marks on the child's wrists and ankles, suggesting she had been tied to the bed, the jury heard.

Image caption,
Lauren Coyle and Reece Hitchcott have been found guilty of child cruelty

A post-mortem examination found Ellie-May died due to "forcible restraint by ligatures in a face-down position complicated by hyperthermia".

Coyle, of Collins Road in Bamber Bridge, Preston, said the bed had been converted by Hitchcott, of The Fieldings in Fulwood, Preston, with the aim of getting the toddler into a routine of sleeping through the night.

She told the court that Ellie-May, her daughter by ex-boyfriend John Minshull, was her "world".

The couple's lodger Connor Kirby, 20, was cleared of all of the charges.

Coyle and Hitchcott will be sentenced on 16 November.

Granting the pair bail, Judge Mr Justice Dove said: "That is no indication whatsoever as to what the likely sentence might be."

Det Ch Insp Zoe Russo said it was "the most distressing case that myself and the team have ever had to deal with".

"To think of the suffering that this little girl was put through by those people that should have loved, cared for and protected her is heart-breaking.

"This was an entirely unnecessary, pointless and avoidable death of a child."

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