A COMMUNITY was in shock last night after a four-year-old girl fell to her death from an upstairs bedroom window on the eve of her mother's birthday.

Police were still trying to establish how Lyndsey Churlish plunged 20ft from the open window at the back of her home in Wood View, Trimdon Station, County Durham. But officers stressed that the death was not being treated as suspicious.

Mother Suzanne discovered her daughter lying on concrete slabs outside the terraced home at about 7.30pm on Tuesday. The toddler was taken by ambulance to Hartlepool's University Hospital with head injuries, but doctors were unable to save her.

Lyndsey had been playing in a back bedroom with her brother Michael, six, sister Emma, three, and neighbour Adam Barnette, aged five.

Another brother, eight-year-old Christopher, was downstairs with his mother, who was chatting to a neighbour. Two other children of the family, Michelle, nine, and Ryan, 11, were out of the house.

The tragedy happened the day before Mrs Churlish's 30th birthday. Lyndsey's father Charles, who has been separated from his wife for about a month, returned home to comfort his family.

Both were last night too distressed to talk about the tragedy.

Neighbour Julie Barnette, 32, whose son Adam had been playing in the house, said: "I can't believe this has happened. Lyndsey was a lovely little girl.

"My son doesn't understand what happened. It's an absolute tragedy. I can't imagine how her parents are feeling."

Ann Smith, secretary of the Trimdon Station Residents' Association, said: "Everyone has reacted with stunned horror. You can't imagine what it's like to lose a child at any time, let alone so close to Christmas."

Plans were under way last night to raise a collection to help pay for the funeral costs.

Children and staff at Deaf Hill Primary School, where Lyndsey was a new pupil, were extremely distressed yesterday. Headteacher Liz Hunt said: "We're all devastated. She was a lovely little girl and it's particularly poignant at this time of year."