A MAN arrested over the hit-and-run death of an eight-year-old girl has told her family he was not responsible.

Waqas Mahmood, 27, came face-to-face with Olivia Whiteside's mum and other relatives at the inquest into her death.

And Mr Mahmood, from the Burnley area, told them he was not the person who knocked down Olivia, of Goldhey Street, Audley, Blackburn, at the junction with Dalton Close and Billinge Street on July 27 last year.

The inquest was told that eye-witnesses described seeing a black Range Rover similar to that driven by Mr Mahmood in the area at the time of the accident.

His mobile phone records also appeared to place him in the Dalton Close area, the inquest was told.

Mr Mahmood was arrested in connection with the crash but police said after the hearing that there was not enough evidence for a prosecution of death by dangerous driving.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Hunter added that because more than six months had passed since the incident, they could also not bring careless driving charges.

After coroner Michael Singleton recorded a verdict of accidental death, emotions ran high and police had to intervene when people began shouting.

Outside the court Olivia's mother, Laura Whiteside, 24, said: "I don't feel like there has been any closure.

"It feels like everything is still up in the air. This is something we will never get over."

Mr Mahmood, speaking later, said the inquest had exonerated him.

He said: "I completely deny any involvement in Olivia's death "The coroner's verdict reinforces that it was nothing to do with me.

"My heart and soul goes out to the Whiteside family.

"This has been a very difficult time for me but I feel that the inquest has exonerated me. I have co-operated with the police in all manners and the inquest heard that there was absolutely no evidence on the car.

"The police were looking for people who drove similar vehicles and that is the only reason I was arrested.

"I hope that the police continue their investigations and catch whoever is responsible."

Earlier, during the hearing Mr Mahmood had been called to the inquest as a witness.

Mr Singleton asked him if the account that he had given to the police that he was not the driver was correct. Mr Mahmood said yes.

He also said he was not using his phone in Blackburn at the time of the accident and that his vehicle was not in the area.

The coroner asked him: "Is there anything else you wish to say about the circumstances relating to the death of Olivia Whiteside?"

Mr Mahmood said "No" and his evidence ended.

Giving evidence, Detective Inspector Gary Brooks, deputy senior investigating officer, said that police had carried out an extensive investigation following Olivia's death, following 700 lines of inquiry.

He said that following the Lancashire Telegraph's coverage of the incident, a woman who had been outside a take away on Copy Nook told police she had seen a black Range Rover in the area with an unusual number plate.

The plate belonged to a grey Hyundai but after altering one digit, police traced a black Range Rover to the Mahmood family, with Mr Mahmood as one of two insured drivers, the inquest was told.

Police impounded the vehicle and it underwent an examination but there was no forensic evidence to link it to the scene.

Officers then carried out cell site analysis of Mr Mahmood's two mobile phones.

One was found to have been used on the day of the accident on a journey from Burnley to Blackburn, the hearing was told.

A signal responding to a mobile phone mast also placed it in the vicinity of Dalton Close, police told the inquest.

Giving evidence, Detective Constable Martin Hulme, who later interviewed Mr Mahmood, said he had denied being in Blackburn on that day, using his car or using his mobile phone - which Mr Mahmood said could have been borrowed by his brother.

Mr Mahmood told police he had been in his shop, trying to set up an internet connection.

Returning an accidental death verdict, Mr Singleton said: "As far as the police are concerned I commend them for their extensive inquiries.

"I share the view of the police that there is some frustration that they have not been able to conclusively identify the vehicle or the driver."

Outside the inquest, DCI Hunter said: "It has been a very demanding and complex inquiry.

"We share the frustration of the family because we have not been able to bring who we believe is the person responsible to justice.

"It is fair to say that limitations of the six-month rule to prepare any charges for careless driving has prevented us from prosecuting the person who we believe was responsible.

"The family have conducted themselves with enormous dignity. As a parent myself I can't imagine the distress that the loss of such a beautiful little girl has caused."