Hereford & Worcester

Leominster Elle Hamer inquest: open verdict

An open verdict has been recorded at an inquest into the death of a five-week-old girl from Herefordshire.

Elle Hamer was discovered dead at home in Leominster on 4 October 2008.

She had a fractured skull which Assistant Deputy Coroner Roland Wooderson said was more likely than not to be non-accidental.

He said while there was doubt as to the cause of Elle's death, what was clear was that she was born into a house where drug abuse was common.

He told the inquest at Herefordshire's Shire Hall: "It is with profound regret that I still cannot reach any conclusion on how Elle died."

He said he felt the full picture may not have been available.

He also commented on her parents' £9,000 a year drug habit saying it may be significant that heroin sends users to sleep or puts them in a semi-conscious state.

'Missed opportunities'

Her parents Ben Pochin and Emma Hamer were both heroin and cocaine users and had been arrested for causing Elle's death, but criminal proceedings were later dropped.

Herefordshire's Safeguarding Children Board went on to carry out a serious case review and concluded there were "missed opportunities".

Elle was discovered dead on the sofa by her mother who told the inquest she took heroin and then fed Elle on the sofa and had "dozed off" with Elle on her knees.

She said she was "200 per-cent confident" that she did not fall asleep on top of Elle due to the shape of the sofa and the position that she was in when she woke up.

On Monday the inquest heard from Professor Peter Fleming, of Frenchay Hospital in Bristol, who said there was a serious possibility that Elle's parents had caused the injury.

He said it was "most likely" that Mr Pochin and Ms Hamer lied when they denied knowledge of any incident.

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