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Anna’s death not natural: GP who tried to save her

A doctor who tried in vain to resuscitate a nine-month-old baby has said he doesn’t believe that she died of natural causes.

Dr Tim Cobain was giving evidence at the inquest into the death of little Anna Ayton on February 12, 2001.

No cause of death has been ascertained.

The infant was rushed to the Ulster Hospital in Dundonald after her father, Richard Ayton, called an ambulance, which initially took the child to Dr Cobain’s Bangor surgery.

But, despite the doctor’s resuscitation efforts in the ambulance after discovering the child wasn’t breathing, she passed away and was later pronounced dead by hospital staff.

The inquest heard that, in a statement made after baby Anna had died, Dr Cobain said the circumstances surrounding her death troubled him.

He also said he was concerned that there was no medical explanation for the child’s death.

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When asked by Mary Connolly QC, the barrister for the baby’s mother Sharon Ayton, to explain those remarks, Dr Cobain said: “What was troubling me was that as I was doing resuscitation in that vehicle I could not think of a medical cause that explained why this nine-month-old baby was dead. The circumstances, her previous good health, that didn’t seem to fit.”

The GP said that when Mr Ayton had called at his surgery two to three weeks prior to Anna’s death he was in a state of “mental distress”.

Dr Cobain also said that, at that time, the child’s father had spoken of his gambling and marital problems.

The inquest at the Old Town Hall in Belfast heard evidence via videolink from Professor Bleumenthal, a paediatrician who had prepared a report into Anna’s death.

He said that Anna’s post-mortem evidence was inconclusive and that a detailed examination, together with an investigation, did not reveal the cause of death.

He added: “Anna was a healthy child who died suddenly and unexpectedly. On the balance of probability, her death was not natural.”

Counsel for Mr Ayton, Peter Coll QC, said that Anna had been unwell in the run-up to her death.

He also put it to Professor Bleumenthal that medical science’s understanding of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was “not yet complete”, to which he replied: “It would be true to say that.”

Richard Ayton was arrested on suspicion of murdering his own daughter, but was released without charge.

He denies any wrongdoing.

The inquest continues.

Background

Anna Ayton died after she was rushed to hospital in February 2001. She had fallen ill while in the care of her father, Richard Ayton. Her parents were separated at the time. The inquest has heard that Anna had been sleeping in her cot when he father found her limp and blue after going to fetch her. Mr Ayton was arrested on suspicion of her murder, but was released without charge.


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