Freckleton vicarage baby death cause 'unknown'

Rev James Percival Image copyright Freckleton CofE Primary School
Image caption Rev James Percival was the vicar of Holy Trinity CE Church in Freckleton at the time of the baby's death

It is not clear what caused the death of a baby born in the bathroom of a vicarage, a coroner has ruled.

Vicar's daughter Ruth Percival, 30, gave birth to her son Jonathan in the downstairs toilet of her parent's home in Freckleton, Lancashire, in 2014.

Ms Percival, who has some special educational needs, did not tell her parents she was pregnant amid an "unusual" family dynamic, a hearing in Blackpool was told.

An open verdict was recorded.

Blackpool and Fylde senior coroner Alan Anthony Wilson said ante-natal care might have saved Jonathan's life, after hearing evidence he was alive at the time of birth.

The inquest into the baby's death heard Ms Percival tried to have an abortion but was too late.

'Inconsistent accounts'

Her father James, 66, who was vicar of Holy Trinity Church at the time of the birth, told the inquest he tried to revive the baby but thought it was stillborn.

He did not call an ambulance and took his daughter for a GP appointment, leaving the dead baby at the vicarage.

An ambulance was called only later and the child pronounced dead by paramedics.

Sitting at Blackpool Town Hall, Mr Wilson said it was not possible to establish the medical cause of death.

He also ruled out any accidental cause of death or natural causes and said the death was not suspicious.

He added: "I feel unable to place any significant point on the evidence of either Ruth or James Percival.

"There have been various inconsistencies in relation to their accounts which have not been resolved in the course of this investigation."

Image copyright PA
Image caption James Percival was vicar of Holy Trinity Church at the time of the birth

Mr Wilson also said: "Although James Percival says his daughter was his priority, he did not call 999, he preferred to take Ruth to the GP and perhaps most perplexing of all, remained in the car initially ... only ringing police at least a couple of hours later after this child was initially discovered.

"The family dynamic in this house was, in my judgment, particularly unusual.

"Ruth was quite a vulnerable person.

"It seems to me she did not feel able to discuss this pregnancy at home and had she done so, and had ante-natal care, then according to the pathologist's evidence it seems more likely than not Jonathan would have gone on to survive delivery."

Both father and daughter were initially arrested by police on suspicion of murder and conspiracy to conceal the birth of a child.

Later they were questioned on suspicion of child neglect before prosecutors advised police there was insufficient evidence for criminal charges, and to take no further action.

Image caption An investigation began in 2014 after reports of a woman giving birth to a stillborn baby

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