A TEEN mum and her boyfriend sent chilling text messages before leaving her 19-month-old daughter to die by tying the tot to a ‘monstrous cage’ bed.
Ellie-May Minshull-Coyle died last March in a flat she shared with her mum Lauren Coyle, 19, and her boyfriend, Reece Hitchcott, 20.
The young couple were cleared of Ellie-May's manslaughter, but during their trial this week it was revealed they texted each other complaining about Ellie-May's behaviour.
The messages, sent just days before the baby's tragic death, also included threats to punish Ellie-May, reports The Liverpool Echo.
Coyle sent a message to Hitchcott which read: "Stressed with Ellie. She was biting me so I put her in her room. She is banging her head off the walls. I have smacked her loads too."
Hitchcott replied: "I will sort her out when I come home. I will put her in her room."
Coyle sent a message to Hitchcott on March 20 which read: "Ellie playing up again shoved her in her room."
Hitchcott replied: "She will behave when I am home ha ha."
Coyle and Hitchcott were cleared of manslaughter at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday.
But a jury found them guilty of causing or allowing Ellie’s death, one count of child cruelty by "caging" the child in her bed, and another count of child cruelty by restraining her in the bed.
Their lodger, Connor Kirby, 20, was cleared of all of the charges.
The trial heard the toddler's purple Frozen bed at the two-bedroom flat in Lostock Hall, Preston, was "turned into a monstrous cage", with 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 were placed over the sides to prevent her seeing outside, no lights were working inside her bedroom, and a mattress and sheet were also covering the window, the court was told.
Ellie-May was alleged to have been bound to the bed face-down.
There were also marks on the child's wrists and ankles, suggesting she had been tied to the "cage", the jury heard.
A post-mortem examination concluded the youngster's death was caused by "forcible restraint by ligatures in a face down position complicated by hyperthermia".
Coyle said the bed had been converted by Hitchcott 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 case was adjourned for sentencing at a later date.
Granting Coyle and Hitchcott bail, judge Mr Justice Dove said: "That is no indication whatsoever as to what the likely sentence might be."
Brett Gerrity, from the Crown Prosecution Service, 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."