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Friday, 25 April 2014

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Baby died sleeping next to ‘drunk’ dad

By Staff Reporter

A SEVEN-WEEK-OLD baby died while sleeping in bed with his father and five-year-old sister.

West Cumbria Coroner John Taylor yesterday recorded a verdict of accidental death at the inquest of Jack Ashley Smallwood, who died on January 1 at his home in Derwentwater Road, Whitehaven.

His father, Ben Smallwood, who had drunk 15 cans of lager while celebrating New Year’s Eve at his parents’ home, was arrested at the time on suspicion of ‘overlaying’.

That is where a parent lays over, or obstructs a child’s breathing when they are in bed together. A file went to the Crown Prosecution Service but no charges were brought.

The inquest heard that although Jack had been born seven weeks prematurely, weighing just 3lbs, and had spent four weeks in hospital, he was making good progress.

He was in good health, apart from suffering from a cold and his mum, Stephanie Callender, was giving him specially-prescribed drops to help clear his blocked nose.

She had stayed in with Jack and her five-year-old daughter, Billie, while Mr Smallwood went to his parents’ house to celebrate the New Year.

She watched television with the children before lying down on a mattress in their lounge to sleep until until Mr Smallwood returned home.

He arrived at 2.40am and all four went upstairs to bed.

He told police he had consumed about 15 cans of lager and was very drunk.

The family were all sleeping in the couple’s double bed because the other bedrooms were being decorated.

Jack had slept with his parents since he was a week old.

Ms Callender couldn’t sleep so went downstairs at about 5.30am to watch television, leaving Jack in bed with his father and sister.

Just over three hours later the baby was discovered freezing cold and stiff. He was purple and was not breathing. Five-year-old Billie called for her mum and Mr Smallwood was screaming.

Jack was taken to the West Cumberland Hospital but was pronounced dead.

When he was interviewed by police, Mr Smallwood, who was not at the inquest, said he couldn’t remember anything after eating a small meal after arriving home and then waking up to find his son dead in the bed beside him.

He said the baby was lying on his arm in his usual sleeping position and looked like he was asleep.

The pathologist who carried out the postmortem believed the baby’s death was due to overlaying, and said it was an unsafe practice to get into bed with a child of that age.

Mr Taylor said: “The death of Jack was a tragic accident.”

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