A dad punched, kicked or stamped on his defenceless 18-month-old daughter and then let her die by refusing to take her to hospital, a court has heard.

Mark Howe, 36, flew in to a rage and hit the child with such force he caused a tear in her intestine which led to her death, the Old Bailey jury were told.

It was the first time Howe had been left to look after the child so his girlfriend, the baby's mum, could go out with friends.

He reassured her nothing was wrong during repeated phone calls that night.

As the child's condition deteriorated Howe failed to take her to hospital the following day, the Old Bailey heard.

When her horrified mother returned from a shopping trip to find the child “unresponsive and floppy” she tried to call 999 but Howe grabbed the phone from her.

As the woman - who can only be referred to as 'L' - ran from the house to call her mother for help, Howe fled with the baby.

Police were called and eventually found Howe sitting in his car with his daughter outside St George's Hospital in Tooting.

A police officer rushed into the accident and emergency cradling the baby - who can only be referred to as 'J' - but nothing could be done to save her life.

Prosecutor William Boyce QC said: “The evidence tends to suggest that she had already been dead for some time before.”

A postmortem investigation revealed baby J had suffered internal injuries including a split in the duodenum - a part of the small intestine - which had caused a leak from her stomach and triggered the onset of peritonitis.

“The injury was caused by a forceful blow to the stomach. This was not an accidental blow but rather an assault-type injury,” said the prosecutor.

“Caused by a hard punch to the stomach, or kick, or stamp on to her in that area.

“That assault the defendant had kept from J's mother, to make matters worse, no doubt in the hope that J would recover and no one would ever find out what he had done.

“He had, as a result, denied J the medical attention she so needed.

“Had it been provided for many hours after the assault it would have undoubtedly saved her.

“The tragedy of this case is that if the defendant had taken J to hospital at any point before lunchtime it is highly likely she would have survived.

The court heard toddler died during the evening of December 23, 2006.

Just 24 hours earlier L had left her daughter with Howe for the first time so she could enjoy a Christmas meal out with friends in Purley.

When L returned to the flat the couple shared in Wallington, the baby had been ill and had a restless night.

The following morning the baby showed some signs of improvement so L went Christmas shopping for a doll for J and left Howe in charge again.

Howe was arrested and interviewed. He later wrote to his girlfriend that he was trying to avoid a table when the baby was accidentally hurt, Mr Boyce told the court.

The prosecutor said medical experts would tell the jury the blow which caused the injury was delivered with such force, it could not have been an accident.

Howe, of Wallington, denies manslaughter.

Jurors were told part of the Old Bailey courtroom would be set up to mirror the dimensions of Howe's front room, complete with sofa, coffee table and playpen.

The trial continues