Belfast Telegraph

Police probing death of child at centre of public inquiry

Claire Roberts, nine, died in hospital in 1996 from a medical condition called hyponatraemia caused by a lack of sodium in the bloodstream.

Police are investigating the death of a child at the centre of a public inquiry in Northern Ireland.

Claire Roberts, nine, died in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital in 1996 from a medical condition called hyponatraemia caused by a lack of sodium in the bloodstream.

A public inquiry was set up in 2004 to investigate the deaths of Claire, Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell.

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Copies of the findings of the hyponatraemia inquiry (PA)

It concluded that the tragedies were avoidable and Northern Ireland’s attorney general, John Larkin QC, ordered Wednesday’s new inquest.

A preliminary hearing at a coroner’s court in Belfast on Wednesday was told a Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) investigation was under way.

Detective Superintendent Richard Campbell said: “We really are at a very early stage.”

He added: “We are working our way through the inquiry report and background material with a view to seeing whether any criminal offences may have been committed and if so to try and identify the individuals who may have committed those offences.”

In January Inquiry chairman Mr Justice John O’Hara ascribed Claire’s death to negligent care and said there was a cover-up.

He is due to meet coroner Joe McCrisken this week to discuss the taking of statements, the inquest in Belfast was told.

In a report published in January, the inquiry chairman considered how hospitals managed fluids while treating the children.

Another preliminary inquest hearing is scheduled for September.

The coroner said he hoped by then to be told whether police envisaged a file being prepared for prosecutors.

He added he was under a legal duty to progress the inquest as quickly as possible.

Mr McCrisken said he had taken receipt of all the material which the public inquiry had and it was being stored.

“I am interested in getting the best evidence possible and the most reliable evidence possible.”

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