Poppy Widdison death: Mother and ex-partner found guilty of child cruelty

Two drug addicts have been warned they face substantial prison sentences for feeding a four-year-old girl heroin and diazepam because she was an inconvenience to their love life.

John Rytting, 40, and Michala Pyke, 37, fed Poppy Widdison diazepam tablets - known as blue Smarties - to sedate her to sleep in a brutal regime of physical and emotional child cruelty over five months.

It only ended when Poppy Widdison died. Her mother, a drug addict since the age of 25, referred to her daughter as: “It” and “little thief.”

A neighbour once over heard her saying: “I hate you.” Poppy was heard to reply: “Get off! Don’t hit me. Let go!”

Poppy was found with diazepam, temazepam, oxazepam, ketamine, heroin, codeine and morphine in her hair after suffering a cardiac arrest on Rytting’s sofa in Oliver Court, Grimsby. It was the result of months of sedation. She was also found with bruising to her upper arms and backs of legs, and buttocks from punishment on Rytting’s naughty step.

Pyke told the jury she believed Rytting had laced her daughter with drugs which left her mouth blue and constantly thirsty on at least three occasions, four weeks before her death.

Social workers missed the fact Pyke had moved in with Rytting six months before. Pyke had been referred to Social Services three times.

Poppy had been born addicted to heroin and Pyke had a daughter taken into care because of her chaotic drug-fuelled lifestyle. She was referred to social workers last in December 2012 because of concerns she was not engaging. Meanwhile, Rytting was a known drug user, who suffered from schizophrenia and had 39 previous convictions - including one for wounding.

The story of cruelty and neglect emerged today at Hull Crown Court as the pair were found guilty of child cruelty by encouraging Poppy to ingest controlled or prescription drugs after a 15-day trial.

It took the jury of four women and eight men less than an hour to return guilty verdicts.

Judge Jeremy Richardson, QC, said: “You have been convicted by jury of very serious crime. You have both prior to today pleaded guilty to very serious crimes. These crime will inevitable attract a substantial prison sentence.”

He remanded them both into custody and adjourned for sentence in January next year.

Crown barrister David Gordon said two addicts had put their own lives above that of Poppy Widdison’s because she was an inconvenience. He said the couple had not been charged with murder or manslaughter because her death still remained unexplained and could not be proved to a criminal standard.

North Lincolnshire Council has announced an investigation into the case and Poppy Widdison's death.