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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Inquest verdict: death of Ulverston baby was accidental

A CORONER issued a plea to parents after an inquest heard a baby suffocated when her mum placed her to sleep on a settee.

Seven-week-old Kodi Sarah Wall died of asphyxia as she lay on the sofa at home in Devonshire Road, Ulverston, early on August 27 last year.

The inquest into her death was told her mum, Samantha Louise Wall, put her to sleep on the living room settee, on top of a cushion resting against the sofa arm.

Ms Wall fed Kodi around 4am – then she and partner Philip McCall listened to music quietly until he noticed around 7.30am the baby was not breathing.

Kodi was taken by ambulance to Furness General Hospital, but pronounced dead at 8.20am.

Ms Wall told yesterday’s hearing in Barrow town hall she drank three cans of alcohol while watching television the previous evening.

A toxicology report also showed she had taken prescription valium, and there were traces of cannabis and amphetamine she used some days earlier when her mum had looked after the baby.

Ms Wall was on medication for post-natal depression which, she said, is what kept her awake on the morning of the death, and methadone.

Mr Ian Smith, South and East Cumbria coroner, recorded a verdict of accidental death and said no one had intended any harm to Kodi.

He said: “Sadly, at some point, her airways did become obstructed.

“Not because mum went to sleep on top of her, but she became, somehow or other, unable to breathe because of contact or close proximity with the cushion and the arm of the settee – and all the scientific evidence points to that.”

Mr Smith said a public message needed to go out that a settee was a “very unsafe” place for babies to sleep – and said experience showed him parents sleeping in bed with their baby was not advised.

He concluded: “A parent needs to be alert as much as humanly possible when baby is about, especially a young baby.

“And all the factors that one keeps seeing in these circumstances – mum not as alert as she should’ve been because of medication and the drink, the fact it was the middle of the night, and baby in a place it is now widely known is not a good place to be – all led to Kodi’s very tragic, very early death.”

Pathologist Doctor Alison Armer, who carried out the autopsy, said a baby “should be placed on their back or side, on their own, in a cot or another appropriate sleeping environment”.

Dr Armer, who said the circumstances surrounding the death did not match her autopsy findings, told the inquest: “I find it very difficult to understand how a seven-week-old baby is put to sleep propped up.

“A baby of that age cannot support its own weight and, in particular, the weight of its head.

“It’s my opinion this baby has died as a result of being placed in an unsafe sleeping environment.”

A tearful Ms Wall, now of Provincial Street, Barrow, said: “I should’ve put her in the Moses basket, I know, but I always put her on the settee and she has always been fine.’’

Detective Sergeant John Carton, of Barrow CID, said any “criminally reckless” circumstances were ruled out.

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