Tuesday, 19 October 2010

SIDS: Chapman, Tasmania

   NICK CLARK   |   October 05, 2010 08.18am
THE mother of a seven-week-old baby boy gave two different reasons why her son might have died suddenly, a Tasmanian inquest was told yesterday.
Coroner Olivia McTaggart heard evidence that family members had been told by the mother the child had been dropped in a bath and that could have been the reason for his death.
She also heard that later, at a family gathering, the mother had said she believed she had smothered the infant while they were asleep in the same bed.
Ms McTaggart was investigating the death of Lennox Paul Chapman, who died in Burnie on December 2, 2008.
The evidence on the reasons for the death given by the mother, Katrina Chapman, of Ridgley, near Burnie, emerged under cross-examination of the baby's maternal grandmother Andrea Pisano by counsel assisting the coroner, Simon Brown, in the Launceston Magistrates Court.
Mrs Pisano said Ms Chapman told her nearly a week after the death that she had dropped him in the bath and that it was probably the reason why he died. She said Ms Chapman had been worried she would go to jail.
Until then, Mrs Pisano had believed the baby was in his cot and had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Several days later the boy's father Geoff Chapman called Mrs Pisano and told her to go to his home.
"When we got there Geoff was standing in the lounge area and he said 'Tell them' and Katrina was sitting on the couch and she said 'It was me, I smothered him'," Mrs Pisano said.
She said her daughter told her the baby had been in bed with her.
Mrs Pisano said her husband had rung a lawyer to get legal advice.
There was also a later discussion.
"She said 'I had Lennox in bed with me and I smothered him I woke up and he was blue and I had my hand on his face'," Mrs Pisano testified.
"That was new to you?" Mr Brown asked.
"Yes," she said.
Mrs Pisano, who sobbed during her testimony, said a psychologist told her Ms Chapman, who was subsequently admitted to a clinic, was delusional.
She said her daughter had been a drug user for 15 years and had used cannabis and Mersyndol during the pregnancy.
"She told me his [the baby's] face kept changing and that he didn't look like a baby and that she was frightened of him," she said.
She said her daughter was convinced smoking cannabis was responsible for the baby being born with "drop" ears.
"She was obsessed about his ears and thought he was deaf and it was all her fault and was crying all the time," she said.
"She was not connecting emotionally with him because of his ears and was convinced he was deaf.
"It was just cruel to watch."
Mrs Pisano said the boy had been "unusually placid" but her daughter was excited when he let out a little giggle.
She told her daughter a fortnight before the baby died not to take him to bed with her.
Mrs Pisano denied a statement from the baby's paternal grandmother Beverley Chapman that she had overheard her tell Katrina: "We've got to get the story straight or you'll be going to jail for 22 years if we don't."
"Definitely not. That is absolute rot, totally untrue," Mrs Pisano said.
She said she had never seen her daughter handle the baby roughly.
She rang her daughter at 11am on the day the baby died because she was worried she was alone after her husband went back to work, she said.
"She said she was going to feed Lennox and go to bed," she said.
Mrs Pisano said Ms Chapman had never indicated whether the dropping into the bath was deliberate or accidental.
The coronial hearing will resume in Burnie at 10am on October 11.

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