A trial is currently ongoing in the Liverpool Crown Court, relating to the death of a 19-month-old toddler who had been securely tied to her mattress, with a duvet over her and a cage fixed over her cot. Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle reportedly showed no other signs of ill-health excepting the possibility of sleep-related problems, which led to the boyfriend caging her in her cot to “help” her sleep patterns.

According to a report by Birmingham Live, the 19-year-old mother, Lauren Coyle, her 20-year-old boyfriend and stepfather of the child, Reece Hitchcott, as well as their lodger, 20-year-old Connor Kirby denied manslaughter charges on 23 March 2017.

However, the trial continues in the matter.

Toddler tied up and caged

As reported by the BBC, a jury at the Liverpool Crown Court was told that Ellie-May had been tied up in a caged cot and forced to sleep face down, covered by a duvet. The cot was pushed against a wall, while the open sides were lashed together with ligatures tied to the frame.

Bedding and sheets had been draped over the open sides of what the court described as a “monstrous cage.” This was reportedly to stop the toddler being able to see outside her bed. A mattress and sheet had been used to cover the window of her bedroom and there were no working lights in the room.

The jury was told that Ellie-May’s ankles had been tied together and that marks on her wrists and ankles suggested the toddler had also been tied to the cage bed at some stage. Her forced sleeping position was said to have compromised her breathing, leading to her death.

Three defendants in court

Coyle, her boyfriend Hitchcott and lodger Kirby lived together with Ellie-May in a two-bedroom flat in Lostock Hall, Preston.

All three denied manslaughter charges last year, however, it is believed they all know what was going on with the toddler.

Christopher Tehrani QC opened the case for the prosecution, telling the jury that their case reveals that Ellie-May was forcibly restrained and caged by those who should have been caring for her.

Tehrani said the situation would have caused the toddler immense distress, upset and suffering. The fact that she was restrained in a face-down position, would have compromised the toddler’s ability to breathe.

Tehrani said Ellie-May would have been unable to move due to her restraints, into a position that would have allowed her to breathe properly. The prosecution stressed that the toddler’s death was wholly avoidable, unnecessary and pointless. He added that Ellie-May did, apparently, struggle with sleeping patterns but was otherwise a totally normal toddler with no health problems.

Mother speaks to the police about Ellie-May’s death

Coyle had told the police that Hitchcott had begun binding her daughter to her bed from around January 2017.

This was allegedly to help Ellie-May get into a “sleep routine.” Coyle said she didn’t approve of his actions. Coyle took Ellie-May to the local job centre on 22 March 2017, where she said the toddler was full of life and mischievous.

However, at about 7:30 PM that night, Hitchcott and Kirby had put Ellie-May to bed, where the child slept until around midnight. However, when she was unsettled for the remainder of the night, Coyle reportedly sent a Snapchat message to her friend, writing that the child was “p*ssing me of [sic] tonight.” The next morning at around 6 AM, the mother contacted her father to tell him her daughter would not stop crying, adding in her message that she had left Ellie-May to cry for around two more hours, as she was allegedly taking the Mickey.

It was when her father arrived at their flat at 9 AM that a “terrible problem” was revealed. Sean Coyle had entered the bedroom to find the child wasn’t breathing. An ambulance attended Ellie-May but paramedics were unable to resuscitate the child.

Toddler pronounced dead

Despite all efforts by medical staff at the Royal Preston Hospital, the toddler was pronounced dead at 10:47 AM. The post-mortem examination revealed the child’s death had been caused by her being restrained in a face-down position, complicated by hyperthermia.

Tehrani said that Dr. Alison Armour, the forensic pathologist, was of the opinion that the toddler’s injuries reveal she had been forcibly bound to the cot on more than one occasion.

Coyle, Hitchcott and Kirby have pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge and to a further charge of allowing or causing the death of a child, a further charge of child cruelty for caging Ellie-May and another of child cruelty for restraining the toddler in her bed. The trial is still ongoing.