Baby girl died sleeping between drunken couple

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A six-month-old baby girl from Coleraine died after sleeping between her mother and partner who were both drunk after celebrating New Year’s Eve, an inquest has heard.

Kyla Zandra Anderson’s mother, Sarah Jayne Stewart, awoke on New Year’s Day to find the infant’s lifeless body beside her.

The distraught mother told an inquest into Kyla’s death, held at Coleraine Courthouse last Wednesday, that she had been drinking excessively with her then partner, Colin Bradley, in a nightclub before returning to her Brook Street home.

In summing up the case, Coroner Suzanne Anderson said she hoped that advice about co-sleeping could spare another family from going through the tragedy of losing a baby.

The inquest heard that the couple returned to Ms Stewart’s home from their night out at 4am on January 1 last year. Baby Kyla, who was earlier being looked after by her mother’s sister, woke up crying shortly after their return and was lifted into bed by the mother while Mr Bradley went to get a dummy.

Mr Bradley, who was not Kyla’s father, told the inquest that he fell asleep immediately after the baby was placed in between them. He said he only woke at 11am on hearing his girlfriend’s screams.

“We were both drunk when we brought Kyla in to the bed,” he told coroner Suzanne Anderson.

“I fell asleep straight away and was woken by Sarah Jayne screaming at 11am about Kyla.

“I knew by her colour that Kyla was dead.”

The coroner also heard that the emergency services received a phone call at 11.25am informing them that the infant had been found not breathing and cold.

When the police arrived they found Ms Stewart in a distressed state and holding the baby in her arms. The Ambulance Service also arrived at the scene and baby Kyla was pronounced dead at 12.40pm.

Detective Constable John Boyd, from the PSNI’s Child Abuse Unit, interviewed the bereaved mother and said no prosecution had arisen from the death.

He said Ms Stewart told him the night out had been her first since Kyla was born six weeks premature in June 2010.

“She stated that she had a lot to drink,” he told the court.

Paediatric pathologist, Dr Caroline Gannon, carried out the post-mortem on the baby’s body and said there were no external signs of injury or trauma to the infant.

Giving evidence, the doctor referred to advice given by The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths: “The current advice is that there is an increased risk of cot death when the parents smoke or drink,” said the doctor.

“There is always the possibility the baby may be overlain by the parent or the baby may overheat.

“I believe co-sleeping is the result of the death here.”

In her summing up, coroner Anderson sent her sympathies to the family and reassured them that the inquest was not about finding blame.

She said: “We have heard the advice given by The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths about co-sleeping. I hope the message gets across to spare other parents the agony this family has had to endure.”