Mystery of baby Charlotte’s death

Bolton Coroner's Court
Bolton Coroner's Court

A coroner has apologised to a young couple after an investigation failed to establish the cause of their three-month-old daughter’s death.

Charlotte Rebecca Foster was found unresponsive by her mother, Tamara Cunningham, in the early hours of January 24, Bolton Coroner’s Court was told.

She had fallen asleep with the baby lying on her. Paramedics were alerted but Charlotte could not be resuscitated, an inquest heard.

Consultant paediatric pathologist Dr Melanie Newbould said she could find no medical reason why the infant had died.

In a statement, Tamara said that day they had staged a party for Thomas, the son of her partner Andrew Foster, at their then-home in Warrington Road, Abram.

Guests began to leave from 8pm and Andrew took Thomas home, the court was told.

The inquest heard that at around 10pm the baby fell asleep after a feed and later, around 1am, Andrew gave her a bottle.

But when Andrew woke around 3am Charlotte, who had been lying on top of Tamara, could not be roused.

Dr Newbould said there were factors which increased the risks of suddden infant death, such as co-sleeping and instances where babies overheated in cribs.

She confirmed that there were no indications, either physically or following toxicology and bacteriology tests, as to why Charlotte had died.

An investigation by Greater Manchester Police, a routine occurrence following the death of anyone aged under 18, confirmed that there were no suspicious circumstances.

Det Sgt Neil Lawless, of Leigh CID, said that the couple had even consented to providing blood samples, following Charlotte’s death, which proved there were no traces of alcohol or drugs in their systems at the time.

The inquest heard that Charlotte usually slept in a moses basket placed near her mother’s side of the bed.

Tamara said that they had taken Charlotte to the walk-in centre at Leigh the previous December, when developed a coughing problem and was given an inhaler and nose drops.

But the family GP, Dr Steven Elliott, of Westleigh Medical Centre, said that by the time of a developmental check-up in January, the issue had been resolved and there were no medical issues with the baby.

Recording an open conclusion, Alan Walsh, an assistant coroner for Greater Manchester West, said he was sorry his inquiry had not provided the parents with answers concerning Charlotte’s death.

He told the court that a number of unexplained baby deaths occurred each year, even without co-sleeping and overheating being an identified factor, where the cause could not be ascertained.

The inquest heard that Tamara, now of Warrington Road, Golborne, who has two other children, is pregnant again with her partner.

Mr Walsh added: “I always say that it is unimaginable for anyone to lose a baby that was thriving, who was well looked after and had developed so well.”

He said he hoped that the couple’s other children - and her upcoming child - would continue to thrive in future.