Mum found ‘peaceful’ baby girl dead in bed on first family holiday abroad – The SunJanuary 13, 2020
FOR Rachael Fitzgerald, her first family holiday with her partner and their new baby daughter should have been filled with happy memories.
But the trip to Crete turned to tragedy when the office manager woke up one morning to find three-month-old Lara unresponsive.
Rachael, from Altrincham, Greater Manchester, said the infant was lying on her back and looked "peaceful" – but instinctively she knew something wasn't right.
She frantically woke partner Mark Maddocks who tried to revive the youngster but she was sadly pronounced dead at the scene in July last year.
Tests were carried in Greece but experts were unable to establish a cause of death.
At an inquest, a doctor said: “We used to call it sudden death syndrome or cot death, we don’t really understand all the factors – might be that we never will.”
'Perfect little girl'
The couple had been trying for a baby for eight years and were delighted when Lara was born in March last year.
She was described as being the ''perfect little girl with a bigger social life than many adults.''
Rachael would regularly take her out in her buggy and friends affectionately nicknamed her daughter "Lady Lara".
She was just on her back and just looked very peaceful and normal but I knew that something’s not right
The couple had decided to take their little girl on holiday with them to the Village Heights Hotel in the Greek resort of Hersonissos last July.
At the hearing in Stockport, the court heard that Lara had recently been treated for symptoms of a cold, but otherwise appeared to be in perfect health.
Miss Fitzgerald said: “Her last feed that night was about 11pm. About 6am I woke up and I just looked at her though I was facing the other way and turned my head.
"She was just on her back and just looked very peaceful and normal but I knew that something’s not right.
“I said 'Lara, Lara' but she never normally wakes till about 8am so it was still early really.
I didn’t get a response and picked her up and her arm just slipped down and chaos went on from there
"I didn’t get a response and picked her up and her arm just slipped down and chaos went on from there.
"Mark grabbed her and tried to resuscitate her. She was warm, she wasn’t blue.
“It doesn’t make sense. I’m obsessed with suffocation issues and you just go through these things – but nothing was near her.”
Mr Maddocks, a Swissport aircraft dispatcher, said: “We tried so hard for a long time to have a child – for eight years.
"But in the end it all worked and Lara was so good she slept a lot and didn’t cry – she was perfect.
“She went everywhere with us, she went more places than some people had been in a life time.
"In the three months, like some of our friends saying where’s Lady Lara lunching today? Was out all the time.”
Dr Melanie Newbold, a paediatric pathologist from Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital, said: “I was able to say that Lara looked like a perfect little girl and seemed to be well grown for her age and no problems with growth.
“Absolutely no signs of suffocation, no evidence whatsoever that suffocation was involved in her death.
“No signs of any illness and internal organs where all perfectly normally formed. No evidence of overwhelming sepsis.
"Some evidence that she might have had a recent cold like almost everybody had.
Lara looked like a perfect little girl and seemed to be well grown for her age
"Other than that no positive findings. Signs of cold wouldn’t have caused her to die.
“Very rare to find evidence of why they have died. It’s not unusual sadly.
"Of course doing the post mortem can identify things that we can see either by the nature of evidence or down a microscope.
"Many people at all ages not just babies but most frequently in babies because of something that’s happened in there body.
What is sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and what can be done to prevent it?
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – sometimes known as "cot death" – is the sudden, unexpected and unexplained death of an apparently healthy baby.
In the UK, more than 200 babies die suddenly and unexpectedly every year. This statistic may sound alarming, but SIDS is rare and the risk of your baby dying from it is low.
Most deaths happen during the first 6 months of a baby's life. Infants born prematurely or with a low birthweight are at greater risk. SIDS also tends to be slightly more common in baby boys.
SIDS usually occurs when a baby is asleep, although it can occasionally happen while they're awake.
Parents can reduce the risk of SIDS by not smoking while pregnant or after the baby is born, and always placing the baby on their back when they sleep.
Here are a list of things that can be done to prevent SIDS:
- always place your baby on their back to sleep
- place your baby in the "feet to foot" position – with their feet touching the end of the cot, Moses basket, or pram
- keep your baby's head uncovered – their blanket should be tucked in no higher than their shoulders
- let your baby sleep in a cot or Moses basket in the same room as you for the first 6 months
- use a mattress that's firm, flat, waterproof and in good condition
- breastfeed your baby, if you can – see benefits of breastfeeding for more information
- smoke during pregnancy or let anyone smoke in the same room as your baby – both before and after birth
- sleep on a bed, sofa or armchair with your baby
- share a bed with your baby if you or your partner smoke or take drugs, or if you've been drinking alcohol
- let your baby get too hot or too cold – a room temperature of 16C to 20C, with light bedding or a lightweight baby sleeping bag, will provide a comfortable sleeping environment for your baby
“Might just be in the case of a baby just stopping breathing a simple reason.
"We don’t understand, know that they can take place but can’t identify them at post mortem as there is no evidence that this has happened.
“If it was death due to over heating in the sense that she was very very hot there usually would be features here. But there’s no evidence that that was the case for her.
“We used to call it sudden death syndrome or cot death, we don’t really understand all the factors might be that we never will.”
In a statement read to the court, family GP Dr Helen Symcox, said: “Lara was born at 40 weeks. Had her first set of immunisations and was seen on June 5, for upper respiratory tract infection and was a bit snuffly. She was active and alert and smiling and her chest was clear.
“On June 25, took her to the surgery with what was thought to be another cold and was a bit snuffly and dribbling a bit. But was drinking her milk and having water so had no concerns.”
The court heard how the GP spoke to her mother about using sun cream and keeping her hydrated and was happy for her to go on holiday.
Recording a conclusion of death by natural causes coroner Alison Mutch told Lara's parents: “It’s clear that she had quite a little personality about her.
"Also came over in the evidence just how well loved and looked after she was.
“She had a very short life but clearly a very happy life and was very very well looked after.
She had a very short life but clearly a very happy life and was very very well looked after
"What we know is that she had a social life that few of us could ever aspire to and was out and about and loved being out and about. She was obviously a very sociable little girl.
“As a family you made the decision to go on holiday and then went to the GP to check they where happy and she was okay for you to go away.
"It seems like a really lovely place you took her too although memories are very different now.
''It seems like it was a really lovely time till the tragedy happened.
“What also comes across from the evidence that not withstanding the shock of what was happening at that time that you both did the right thing for your daughter. You tried to resuscitate her and called for help straight away and did everything you possible could for your daughter.
“There where no suspicious circumstances or third party involvement and evidence of pathologist that her death is from a natural cause that could not be ascertained.
“I express my condolences to you at your loss at this very difficult time I know for all of you as a family. Can only imagine how difficult life is at the moment coming to terms with it. And pass them on to the other family who I am sure miss Lara very much.”
Lara's parents have raised more than 5,000 towards the Lullaby Trust charity which gives advice about reducing the risk of cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
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