THE father of a toddler who was knocked down and killed by an icecream van, stormed out of a County Durham inquest yesterday.

Freddie Thompson, whose two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Billie, died on June 29 last year, reacted angrily to the verdict of accidental death, delivered by North Durham coroner Andrew Tweddle.

Previously, Mr Tweddle had listened to evidence on the tragedy, at Pontop View, Delves Lane, in Consett, where Billie's grandparents Hughie and Margaret live.

The inquest heard that self-employed icecream seller Kevin Wanless, 35, was making a regular trip to the cul-de-sac when the accident happened, at about 6pm.

Due to the number of parked cars, he had to do a three-point turn. After reversing into a garage area, he was pulling out to the right when the back of the Ford Transit van hit Billie, of Constance Street, Consett.

In a taped police interview, Mr Wanless said: "I checked the left side first and I had two children standing on the driver's side.

"As I made my way about three to five feet, I felt the van rock. I felt as though the rear of the vehicle had gone over a stone or a piece of wood on the road.

"I checked the mirror and saw a child to the rear."

The inquest heard that Mr Wanless called an ambulance, then became involved in an altercation with Billie's relatives.

Dr Douglas Maloney, a consultant pathologist at the University Hospital of North Durham, said a post mortem examination revealed that Billie had died from severe brain injury caused by multiple skull fractures.

He said she would have lost consciousness immediately upon being hit.

Mr Tweddle said: "You often hear the expression tragic accident. It almost devalues the expression because it is used so regularly.

"I am inevitably drawn to the conclusion that Billie died an accidental death."