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Baby died with sleeping grandmother

Published 02/06/2015

An inquest is being held into the death of three-week-old George Charnock
An inquest is being held into the death of three-week-old George Charnock

An "angelic" three-week-old baby died after his insomniac grandmother, who hadn't slept in 68 hours, fell asleep with him in her arms.

George Charnock was found unresponsive by grandmother Eileen Charnock after falling asleep on the sofa whilst winding him on her chest.

Mrs Charnock today told an inquest that she was "in her own hell" after reliving the harrowing details whilst babysitting for her daughter Emily's two children.

At the inquest held at Heywood Coroner's Court she told how she recalled waking up and finding her grandson unresponsive at the bottom of the sofa with his five-year-old sister Charlotte close by.

The inquest heard that it was not disputed that she had drank a couple of glasses of wine earlier in the evening whilst babysitting at the Oldham home they had all shared.

Mrs Charnock was arrested following the incident on suspicion of causing death to a child by overlaying. But following a blood sample, toxicology reports proved negative for alcohol and no further action was taken.

The inquest heard that Mrs Charnock had suffered with insomnia for a number of years due to shift work and would go without sleep for between 68-72 hours before falling into "a deep sleep".

Mrs Charnock, who is also epileptic, said she had been referred for assessments by a doctor.

She told the inquest that on the night of George's death she had gone 68 hours without sleep and had felt "dozy" whilst winding the child after taking him from his Moses basket.

She said: "At that point I had 68 hours of no sleep and I fell asleep. Once I go out I go out. Nobody woke me up it was just a reaction. I was lying lengthways. I woke up. Then I shot up, I saw George at the bottom lying there, I got hold of George, he wasn't responding."

She added that she began CPR on him whilst waiting for the emergency services to take him to the Royal Oldham Hospital shouting, "please George, please George wake up".

She said: "I'm in my own hell. I live that day every day, part of me died that day he died. I just went out like a light. I just wish I could turn the clock back."

The inquest was told that George's mother Emily returned home the following afternoon around 1pm to find forensics outside her house.

She said: "I saw people in white suits, forensics, coming out (of) my house. I just said, 'who's dead who's dead'. I saw them coming out with bags, I said 'what's going on'. George had died. I have been trying so hard to block it out."

The inquest heard that she had given birth to George early but that she had problems throughout the pregnancy with alcohol and social services had been involved.

She said of her son: "He was so beautiful, he was so angelic. He was just perfect."

Home Office pathologist Dr Naomi Carter, who was assigned to perform the post-mortem examination, concluded a negative autopsy.

She told the inquest that "sofa sharing" was a known factor of sudden unexpected death in children. She said that although it is still not clear why a child dies, contributory factors can include overheating and the obstruction of the airway passages or smothering.

Dr Carter said: "The accidental obstruction of the air passages has got to be a real possibility. Given the history, I think it's got to be a distinct possibility. I can't say it must be the cause of death, the cause of death here must be described as unascertained. I emphasise that sharing a sofa with a baby is not a safe thing to do."

It was confirmed that there was no alcohol or drugs present in George's bloodstream and no evidence of a genetic or life threatening infection.

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