London - A boy of seven months choked to death in a bed that was built with ‘no thought or care’ for the safety of the child sleeping in it, a court heard on Monday.
Oscar Abbey was found by his father ‘unconscious and not breathing’ when he went to check on the baby at 6 am before he left for work.
He had wriggled his body backwards through a square hole in the bed’s side, but his head was too big to fit through and he became jammed at the neck with fatal consequences, Leeds Crown Court was told. Father Charlie said Oscar felt ‘very cold’ and when he turned him around his eyes were still open and he ‘instantly realised he had gone’. The desperate father screamed ‘he’s not breathing’ to wife Shannon, who called for an ambulance, but nothing could be done to save their son.
Police and Trading Standards officers investigated and discovered the bed, and many others built by the same company, did not comply with British safety standards and regulations.
Following the tragedy, Craig Williams, 37, the boss of Sheffield-based company Playtime Beds Ltd, was ordered by the authorities to stop selling his children’s beds as they posed a strangulation risk, the jury was told.
But the court heard he used a new company, set up by one of his two employees Joseph Bruce, to complete outstanding orders, knowing the beds put children at risk. Prosecutor John Elvidge, QC, said Williams was guilty of gross negligence manslaughter as he ignored the risks caused by his designs and his conduct was so ‘truly exceptionally bad’ it amounted to a crime.
The court heard his failure to make the beds safe even after Oscar’s death in November 2016 showed he ‘didn’t care at all about the safety’ of those using them.
Mr and Mrs Abbey bought the £655 bed for both Oscar and their two-year-old son Maxwell to use. Before agreeing to the purchase, Mrs Abbey exchanged emails with Williams in which she told him the ages of her children and asked him what age the cot section was suitable for. He replied: ‘Any age.’
The tragedy happened just five nights after Oscar first slept in it, with his brother sleeping above.
At 6 am Mr Abbey went to kiss his children goodbye and found Oscar ‘lying face down with his whole body outside the cot side’ and with ‘his head stuck inside’.
Mr Elvidge said Oscar died from ‘positional asphyxia’, and added: ‘His head was too big to fit through and in effect he choked to death and was starved of oxygen.’
Describing the terrible moment he found his baby son dead, Mr Abbey said he could ‘feel he was already cold’ as he threaded him back through the hole. He added: ‘I instantly realised he had gone. His eyes were slightly open and I could see his mouth was dry.’
Williams, of Rotherham, denies manslaughter by gross negligence and fraud by misrepresentation.
Mr Elvidge said he responsible for designing and constructing the bespoke beds but did so ‘without any care or thought for the safety of the child who was asleep in it’.
Bruce, 31, who set up another bed firm after Oscar’s death, has pleaded guilty to the same fraud charge. The case continues.