A “healthy baby” suddenly died at a Devon hotel, an inquest has heard. Brody Terence Bingle, born on December 24, 2021, was just four months old at the time of his death on March 24, 2022.
An inquest held at Plymouth Coroner’s Court heard how he had been staying at the Travelodge in Howeson Lane, Plymouth with his mum, Deeleah Slater, and his older sibling but was found ‘cold’ and unresponsive the following morning. Brody’s parents have spoken of the “horrible shock” they both endured after their son tragically died.
As reported by Plymouth Live, a Detective Constable from Devon and Cornwall Police confirmed there was no continuing investigation into his death. However, the coroner hopes the circumstances around Brody’s death may prevent further tragedies.
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Assistant coroner Deborah Archer read a pre-prepared statement on Ms Slater’s behalf. It stated how on the night of March 23, 2022, Ms Slater had been watching TV in the hotel room and had drunk a small amount of vodka – the equivalent of a “double vodka Pepsi”.
She said this made her feel “a little warm” but didn’t feel drunk and was “aware of her limitations”. A blood sample taken from Ms Slater on the day Brody died found no presence of alcohol in her system.
After watching TV, Ms Slater got into the hotel room’s only double bed which she had been sharing with both of her children. The inquest heard how staff at the hotel had previously given her a travel cot for Brody but she opted not to use it because she didn’t know how to assemble it and also because she felt it would be dangerous for her son because it was too low and didn’t have barriers on the side.
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On getting into bed she turned Brody onto his front to “help him settle” and “rubbed his bum and his back”, the inquest heard. In her statement, Ms Slater said Brody had been positioned in the middle of the bed with his head on the edge of the pillow.
In the morning, Ms Slater said she recalled waking and thinking to herself “why is it so quiet?”. She said Brody had still been on his front but “felt cold”. Ms Slater says this “freaked” her out and she immediately dialled 999. She was instructed to place Brody on a hard surface and begin performing CPR.
In her statement, she admitted: “I didn’t know what I was doing.” She also said she “couldn’t stop screaming” and “couldn’t look at him”, describing the situation as “horrific”.
Ms Slater said her son had been “fine” in the previous 48 hours before his death. Arriving paramedics said they found Brody lying on the hotel room floor and not breathing.
Brody’s father, Luke Bingle, who was present at the hearing, said: “I don’t know what to say. He was just so healthy. He was from the moment he was born. That’s why it’s such a horrible shock.”
He was then taken to Derriford Hospital, which had been just a three-minute drive away. Tragically, despite the efforts of hospital staff, life was pronounced extinct at 9.05am.
Concluding her statement, Ms Slater described her late son as a “happy, chilled little boy.” She added: “His smile used to make me smile.”
Dr Liina Palm of Great Ormond Street Hospital was on hand to provide evidence to Ms Archer. Dr Palm had conducted the post-mortem 10 days after Brody’s death.
She told Ms Archer that despite carrying out numerous tests she had been unable to find a conclusive cause of death. She explained that the youngster’s bones were “entirely normal” and there was no underlying problem with his bones.
She noted that although there was evidence of recent rib fractures it was consistent with the resuscitation attempts made by his mother and the paramedics. There was also evidence to suggest Brody was well looked after.
Dr Palm said: “He was generally clean. No evidence of nappy rash which indicates he was well looked after.”
“Again, nothing unusual, nothing traumatic found in this examination,” she said. An internal examination of Brody, both by the naked eye and by microscope returned similar findings.
Dr Palm said there was no evidence of anything abnormal and his organs all appeared of normal weight, meaning no organ stood out. The microscopic examination also found there was “no evidence of defects or underlying conditions”.
The Great Ormond Street Hospital pathologist noted that she had recorded “blood pooling” or hypostasis present on both Brody’s front and back. This is the accumulation of fluid or blood in the lower parts of the body or organs under the influence of gravity.
Dr Palm confirmed that this indicated that “on the balance of probability” Brody had been on his front at the time of death. She also confirmed a toxicology report had found no evidence of drugs in Brody’s system but was unable to confirm whether alcohol had been found.
Ms Archer enquired if Brody’s death could have been a result of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or airway obstruction, namely the bedding he was sleeping on. Dr Palm said there was no way to be certain and had hoped there had been more information provided.
This led her to record Brody’s cause of death as “unascertained”. She finalised her evidence by describing Brody as a “healthy young baby”, before passing on her condolences to his parents.
DC Michael Evans of Devon and Cornwall Police explained there was no continuing investigation and there had been no criminal outcome. He said police had found an empty vodka bottle in the bedroom and an unused travel cot. When asked about the items by the police, Ms Slater was “up front” and cooperated with officers.
She explained that she had thrown most of the vodka down the sink and a blood sample taken from Ms Slater on the day Brody died found no presence of alcohol in her system. Ms Archer asked if DC Evans’ opinion had changed on hearing additional evidence from Dr Palm but he indicated that it had not.
Summarising the hearing, Ms Archer began by stating she didn’t believe that Brody’s mother was “fully aware of the risks” when placing a baby on their front. She added that there was also an “increased risk of asphyxiation” because he had been sharing a bed with his mother and sibling.
She added had he not been placed on his front he may not have died. She said: “I hope others will learn from this terrible tragedy.”
However, the assistant coroner accepted that it could not be confirmed with any degree of certainty that Brody had died as a result of SIDS or asphyxiation. Therefore, Ms Archer indicated she would be returning an open conclusion and recording Brody’s death as unascertained.
Ms Archer informed the hearing that Ms Slater had felt unable to attend the inquest.
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