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Mum: I hid dead baby in car boot

Distraught woman tells inquest of stillborn trauma

By Lisa Smyth

A young Co Down woman wept as she told how she hid her stillborn baby in the boot of her car for over a month before admitting she had given birth.

Kerri-Ann Roulston was speaking at the inquest of her baby son who was born in the early hours of July 7, 2003.

At Belfast Coroner’s Court this morning, the highly distraught mother-of-one explained that she had been experiencing cramps and, unaware that she was pregnant, thought she was suffering from diarrhoea and had been drinking pure orange juice.

She went to the downstairs toilet of the Ballynahinch home where she was living with her aunt and uncle following the death of her mother, where she gave birth.

Coroner Brian Sherrard asked the young mother, who was 21 at the time, to describe her actions in the immediate aftermath of the birth, to which she replied: “I sat with my legs crossed. It was a wee boy. I automatically looked for crying or breathing but there was nothing. I just sat on the bathroom floor rubbing his wee head. I felt for breath but there was nothing.

“I took him back to my bedroom and it was like someone putting something over my mouth. I couldn’t tell anyone and the longer I left it the harder it was. I put him in my car.”

The court heard from Ms Roulston’s aunt, Elizabeth Graham, who discovered the body of the baby one month after its birth.

She told the inquest she decided to look in her niece’s car because of a bad smell. The court heard that the body was hidden in a shoebox which was wrapped inside three plastic bags in the boot of the car.

Following the grim discovery, a shocked Mrs Graham went to her husband who was watching television in their home at The Brae and asked him to look at what she had found.

Samuel Graham told the inquest: “My wife came in from outside and said she wanted me to take a wee look as she thought she had found something.

“She explained what it was and I thought it couldn’t be.

“I went to the car and looked inside. Not having seen anything like that before I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.

“We believed because of the smell it was what we thought it was.

“Our main concern was Kerri-Ann. We needed to get her home and talk to her. If this was a baby, then whose was it? We were never aware of her being pregnant.

“I would like to say she didn’t know she was pregnant. We as a family didn’t know she was pregnant. She has had a second baby boy and she didn’t know she was pregnant then and neither did we. This wasn’t a made-up story.”

A post-mortem examination on the baby was unable to find a cause of death due to advanced decomposition.

The inquest was told that Ms Roulston was arrested under suspicion of infanticide but no charges were ever brought and the investigation into the death of her son is no longer active.

Delivering his findings, Mr Sherrard said: “This is a very difficult and emotive case and it is a very unusual inquest for me to be involved in. In this case and given the circumstances and the facts we have there is insufficient evidence to show that the child was born alive.

“Therefore what I intend to do is request the registrar to register the death as a stillbirth.”

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