An eight-week old baby who died after falling asleep on her father’s chest after he was alleged to have been smoking cannabis suffered a tragic accidental death, a coroner has ruled.
Chloe Yates, described as a "very healthy, well cared for child", died at her grandmother’s house in Hook Road, Hook, in the early hours of June 9, 2009.
Her mother Jade Woolford, of Fleetwood Road in Surbiton, told West London Coroners’ Court on Tuesday that Chloe’s father James Yates fed her around 12.30am or 1am before she fell asleep on top of him.
When she woke the following morning Chloe was on her side in the middle of the bed, and cold to the touch and not breathing.
An ambulance was called at 5.52am, but doctors at Kingston Hospital were unable to revive her despite performing 30 minutes of CPR.Ms Woolford said: "It looked like she had fallen asleep and just slipped down. She was still facing toward him.
"James was on drugs the night he fed her. He was on cannabis or whatever it was – he had a regular habit.
"When he was downstairs that’s what he was doing – I 100 per cent know that."
Dr Iona Jeffrey, who carried out an autopsy, said she had not tested for the presence of the drug, but thought it would have been unlikely to have had an effect on Chloe.
Detective Inspector Teresa Defanis, from the child protection team in Barnes, said she was only told Mr Yates had allegedly smoked cannabis on the night several months later, and he denied it when questioned.
Mr Yates was not at the inquest to give evidence.
However, she ruled out anything suspicious about Chloe’s death, and said: "There was nothing that would have changed my decision making on the day."
Dr Jeffrey said the autopsy did not point to a definite cause of death, but she was unwilling to ascribe it to sudden infant death syndrome because of the unusual presence of petechiae, minute hemorrhages in the skin which can be associated with asphyxiation, on her face and jaw line.
Coroner Alice Thompson said: "The only possible relationship [of James smoking cannabis] would be on his sleep, but I have heard he was a heavy sleeper in any event.
"On the balance of probabilities, I do consider this is more likely than not a finding consistent with a mild mechanical asphyxiation event.
"I totally rule out this being a deliberate event. No-one was to blame and it was no-one’s fault.
"This is more likely to have been an accidental event than an entirely natural case. I believe it does relate to the environment and the way Chloe came to lie on her side."