Belfast Telegraph

Tragic baby died while in bed with his mother

By Amanda Poole

A baby boy died suddenly on Christmas Eve from unknown causes while sharing his mother’s bed, an inquest has heard.

The lifeless body of three-month old Charlie Spence White, from Ballyclare, was discovered face down by his mother Karen Spence at 9.30am on December 24, 2010.

Charlie’s grandfather Kenneth Spence told the court he knew something was wrong when he heard his daughter screaming: “Daddy, daddy, Charlie’s not breathing.”

In a statement read out to the Coroner’s Court in Belfast, Karen said her son, who was born prematurely on October 1, 2010, had spent the first month of his life in hospital.

The emergency services were called after Ms Spence discovered her son face down, “floppy and white”, with blood on the sheets and in his nostrils.

Despite attempts made to revive baby Charlie by his mother, a PSNI officer and a paramedic, he was pronounced dead by medical staff at Antrim Area Hospital at 10.18am on Christmas Eve.

Paediatric pathologist Dr Caroline Gannon carried out a post-mortem examination on Charlie.

The child specialist, based at the Royal Victoria Hospital, said an infant of Charlie’s age would not have the muscle control to turn himself over.

Dr Gannon said several conditions contributed to his death, but after thorough investigation unfortunately no definitive cause of death could be identified.

She added: “However, co-sleeping in an adult bed is regarded as a hazardous sleeping arrangement for small infants and is not recommended by the Department of Health.”

Coroner Brian Sherrard described the death as a “terrible tragedy.” He recorded the cause of death as “sudden unexpected death in infancy, not ascertained”.

Secondary contributory factors were recorded as co-sleeping, |interstitial pneumonitis, which indicates a previous chest infection Charlie had suffered from, as well as some brain damage at birth.

Mr Sherrard said: “There is no fault identified here. No guilt. Just a very real tragedy. I hope this is understood by Karen.”


The Department of Health recommends you should not share a bed with your baby if:

  • You or your partner smoke
  • You or your partner have been drinking alcohol, or have taken medication or drugs
  • You feel very tired
  • Your baby was premature

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph