A father broke down in tears as he told an inquest how he killed his three-year-old daughter in a freak accident.
Lacey Bell is believed to have followed her father Richard out of the front door without him knowing as he drove off.
She fell under the rear wheel and suffered crush injuries that claimed her life an hour later in hospital.
Mr Bell, from Burnage, Manchester, was heard shouting: ‘I’ve just run my little girl over. I’ve killed my baby. What have I done to my family, I’ve killed my little girl.’
He told the hearing: ‘When I was leaving I didn’t see Lacey, I didn’t look for her I just didn’t see her – I simply didn’t know she was there. I went round the front of the van and got in and I looked in the road to see if anything was coming and it wasn’t.
‘I drove the vehicle a few metres off the pavement and felt the wheel go over something like a brick.
‘At first I thought it was a doll or a toy or something. Then I thought it might be the cat because it likes to sit in the bit above the wheel when it has been raining. I looked out the window and thought that it was too big to be a cat so maybe it was a towel.
‘I thought it was a towel at first. Then I got out of the mini van as I saw that it was my little girl. I just didn’t see anything, I just didn’t see her.
‘I picked her up and I got her in the van and drove as fast as I could myself but it wasn’t fast enough. I didn’t see anything, she was only little.
‘It is unbelievable how this has happened. We had a perfect life with baby Lacey. It was heartbreaking. It has destroyed the family, we don’t sleep at night. It burned the family and it still burns the family now.’
Assistant Coroner Sally Hatfield recorded a conclusion of death by road traffic accident.
She said: ‘This was the most shocking accident. It happened in a moment and its was one of those tragedies that could not have been prevented.
‘Nothing could have been done to avoid this freak accident. It was unavoidable, and unseeable, there is no fault of anyone. Sensibly in my opinion was that it would be quicker to take her there himself.’
After the hearing Lacey’s mother Louanne Southern, 34, said: ‘When she died that died we died with her. It was a tragic, freak accident. The light that shone out of that little girl.
‘She was a special and beautiful little girl. She always woke up happy. Lacey loved dressing up, and she wouldn’t go to the doctors without dressing up as a nurse, she would call herself Nurse Bell. Her older sister is studying health at college, and Lacey idolised her.
‘What breaks my heart the most is that I won’t be there to see the biggest moments in her life. I was looking forward to her starting school.
‘She should have been graduating from her nursery now. I was so excited to go and get her little pinafore dress from the school shop.
‘The family is broken, and Rich is so strong for everyone. Whenever he walked through the door it would all be about Lacey. He would say where is my little girly. It has broken him that this has happened. It was a nightmare. She had just opened the door and she was gone.’