Healthy baby girl was found dead in her crib at just 17 days old

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Healthy baby girl was found dead in her crib at just 17 days old

  • Father, Richard Heys, had just rolled up as Holly-Mae was asleep upstairs
  • He checked her when mother, Bethany Rowley, came back from hospital
  • Called paramedics – who said house was ‘dishevelled’ and smelled of drug
  • Pathologist said clothes and items in Moses basket may have contributed  

James Dunn For Mailonline

Healthy baby girl Holly-Mae Heys died in  a dishevelled home moments after her father rolled up a cannabis joint

Healthy baby girl Holly-Mae Heys died in a dishevelled home moments after her father rolled up a cannabis joint

A healthy baby girl died in mysterious circumstances in a dirty home moments after her father rolled up a cannabis joint at breakfast time, an inquest heard.  

Holly-Mae Heys had no medical issues but was found unresponsive in her Moses basket in the home described as ‘dirty and dishevelled’ by a paramedic.

The medic also said it was ‘in a poor state from the outside’ and ‘smelt strongly’ of cannabis after being called by the baby’s father, Richard Heys.

He had just finished rolling the joint after spending the night looking after the infant when his partner arrived back after a night in the hospital with gastroenteritis.

Mr Heys went upstairs to check on her and found her unresponsive then called medics, who tried to revive her but later pronounced her dead at just 17 days old.

A pathologist who examined the body also said she was put to bed in a ‘potentially unsafe sleeping environment’, with clothes and other items inside the Moses basket.

Mr Heys told the inquest: ‘I put Holly to sleep in the Moses basket shortly after 6am. There were no concerns at that stage. I hadn’t heard from Beth.

‘I really can’t remember whether there was anything in the Moses basket or not. We had two Moses baskets in the house – one upstairs and one downstairs. It’s unlikely I would have put her in there with clothing inside.

‘I was tired and was on my way up to bed myself, it was only because Beth text me to say she was coming home that I stayed up. Holly-Mae was a happy healthy little girl and that’s why it’s so hard for us to try and figure out what did happen.’

The tragedy at the home in Accrington, Lancashire, happened on February 3 – less than three weeks after Holly was born at 38 weeks by emergency caesarean.

She was bottle fed and taken home by parents Bethany Rowley, 23, and 39-year-old Mr Heys, a former fire service worker.

Richard Heys, the baby's father, posing with a cannabis pipe made from an apple

Mr Heys drinking beer, with bottles and cans on the floor

The medic said the house was ‘in a poor state from the outside’ and ‘smelt strongly’ of cannabis after being called by the baby’s father, Richard Heys (pictured holding a cannabis pipe made from an apple, left, and drinking a beer, right)

Mr Heys had just finished rolling the joint after spending the night looking after the infant when his partner Bethany Rowley (pictured together) arrived back after a night in the hospital with gastroenteritis

Mr Heys had just finished rolling the joint after spending the night looking after the infant when his partner Bethany Rowley (pictured together) arrived back after a night in the hospital with gastroenteritis

On the night before Holly died, Miss Rowley was struck down with gastroenteritis and went back into hospital for checks due to concerns arising out the C-section.

Miss Rowley, a student, told the Blackburn inquest: ‘Holly-Mae had been her usual self and although she was a bit more whingey, there was nothing that couldn’t be comforted or sorted. It was one those things that could be easily calmed and was nothing I was concerned about – she was a two-week-old baby.

Mr Heys called the ambulance when his partner returned home and he checked on the child to find she was unresponsive

Mr Heys called the ambulance when his partner returned home and he checked on the child to find she was unresponsive

‘The ambulance didn’t turn up until about midnight to take me to hospital and I came home at 7:26 the next morning. My partner made a cannabis roll up and I asked where Holly was.

‘But instead of me looking at her, my partner let me sit down and went to the upstairs room to check on her himself. He came down about 30 seconds later saying “I think you need to check on her, she’s not breathing”.’

Mr Heys, a bricklayer, who tried to perform CPR on the child, added: ‘I had no problem looking after Holly. I had done it plenty of times. Holly was her usual self – the only time she whinged was when she had trapped wind or needed a cuddle.

‘There was no need to give her any pain relief because she didn’t have a temperature. She slept quite well, had a feed change and wind and went back to sleep. I didn’t sleep at all that night because I was waiting for Beth and expecting her to be in and out within a couple of hours.’

Paramedic Phillip Evans who attended the house said: ‘We were informed that it was a paediatric cardiac arrest and the baby was 17 days old. The house was in a poor state from the outside when we arrived.

Holly-Mae Heys was later pronounced dead aged just 17 days old, with the case of death given as 'unascertained'

Holly-Mae Heys was later pronounced dead aged just 17 days old, with the case of death given as ‘unascertained’

A pathologist who examined the body also said she was put to bed in a 'potentially unsafe sleeping environment', with clothes and other items inside the Moses basket 

A pathologist who examined the body also said she was put to bed in a ‘potentially unsafe sleeping environment’, with clothes and other items inside the Moses basket 

‘We entered the property and there was a strong smell of cannabis and the house appeared dirty and dishevelled.

‘We asked the parents when they last saw her alive and the man said the patient had been crying one hour previously. We carried out our own attempts to revive the child.’

Paediatric pathologist, Gauri Batra, said sleeping arrangements could have contributed to the baby’s death – but added that a post mortem examination would never be able to tell that.

She added: ‘Externally there was nothing to indicate she was not failing to thrive, there were no abnormalities or dysmorphic features. Information was that Holly had no medical problems, her dad looked after her and given her a feed at 10:30 then 4 in the morning.

‘Holly was changed at 6 and was put in her Moses basket which contained clothing and other items. At 7:30 she was taken to hospital. 

Mr Heys said he had looked after the child numerous times before and had never had a problem, but said he wasn’t sure if he had left anything in the Moses basket

Paediatric pathologist, Gauri Batra, said sleeping arrangements could have contributed to the baby's death

Paediatric pathologist, Gauri Batra, said sleeping arrangements could have contributed to the baby’s death

On the night before Holly died, Miss Rowley was struck down with gastroenteritis and went back into hospital for checks due to concerns arising out the C-section

Her mother, Miss Rowley, said that the child had seemed OK the night before

On the night before Holly (pictured) died, Miss Rowley was struck down with gastroenteritis and went back into hospital for checks due to concerns arising out the C-section

‘Internally her organ system was examined and did not show evidence of any abnormality or an infection process. This was a sudden and unexpected death with no history of infection prior to death.

‘Holly was put to sleep in a Moses basket that was potentially an unsafe sleeping environment. A cause of death has not been found and I said it was unascertained.

‘An unsafe sleeping environment would not show in a post mortem examination so you cannot rely on anything to say this is a cause of death. Even if it contributed to death it won’t show because it’s not something that can be found from the post mortem.’

Recording an open conclusion, Assistant Coroner Rachel Galloway said: ‘I do not know if there was any clothing in the Moses basket – and if there was, whether it contributed to the death.

‘I accept that the witness said he did not believe there was but it’s difficult to say whether there was. The pathologist was unable to say whether that had an impact on the death. ‘There can sadly be many different reasons for the death of Holly Heys, natural causes and unnatural. We can’t know what the precise cause of death is.’

Published at Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:40:49 +0000