Cocaine played no role in baby’s death

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A coroner has said that cocaine played no role whatsoever in the death of a a three-and-a-half month old baby who was found to have the drug in his blood.

Baby Zane Downie had been rushed to hospital ​​after suffering a sus​pected cardiac arrest at the family home on ​Holyrood Avenue​, Bridlington​, an inquest heard.​

​Pathologist Dr Alistair MacDonald, who carried out a ​p​ost-mortem on the baby boy, said ​a low level of ​cocaine was ​found in his blood, but said he couldn’t ascertain ​the ​cause of death.

​The baby’s father Karl Downie told the inquest, at Hull Coroner’s Court, that he had been a cocaine user, and would smoke it, but that he had kept it a secret from the baby’s mother.

He said: “It’s possible that it’s been on my hands at some point​. It must have been through me because she never touched it.”

Toxicology expert Professor Alexander Forrest, told the inquest that the level of cocaine found in the infant’s blood was extremely low and that it would not have caused the child’s death, nor was it likely the drug had been deliberately or accidentally given to Zane.

But he said studies in the USA had found a higher rate of sudden death among infants in homes where cocaine was used.

He added: “Finding a small amount of cocaine in a child dead or alive maybe an indication that the family environment might not to optimal for the child to be brought up in.”

Nurse and health visitor Carole Pallant told the inquest she had contacted social services after the child’s mother Ms Lisa McDonald failed to keep health appointments for the child, although when she finally got round to examining him six weeks before his death he had gained weight and had no health issues apart from being constipated.

Ms Pallant said: “My main concern was that Lisa didn’t want to engage with me.”

But Mr Downie told her: “It was just the way you spoke to her - like she was a 16-year-old mum - when she’d had three children already.”

The parents asked Dr MacDonald whether Zane had suffered an allergic reaction to cow’s milk, which he’d been given for the first time on the night of his death.

Ms McDonald, 29, asked him whether Zane’s “croaky chest” and lungs filled with phlegm could have been a cause of death, but he said there was no evidence of infection.

She said that on the night in question, February 19 last year, she checked on Zane, who was in a cot at the bottom of her bed, and found him red hot. She said: “I picked him up and he was really limp and red hot to touch and his clothes were wet with sweat he was that hot.”

When paramedic Alex Windsor arrived at the house at 3.17am he saw Mr Downie trying to resusicate but said the infant had “a blue tinge and was not responding.”

Paramadics also battled to save the infant in the ambulance on the way to Scarborough Hospital where a team of medics had been on standby.

Reaching an open conclusion, Her Majesty’s senior coroner Paul Marks extended his condolances to the parents, saying: “I am aware, as parents, that your burning question as to why your son died has not been answered and we will not be able to answer it.

“One thing I will say is that cocaine played no role whatsoever and you heard the levels present were low.”

He said it was likely Zane had “ingested” cocaine from the ambient environment of his home where he father had been using the drug.

Det Con Rachel Robinson told the inquest that criminal investigations into the death had been dropped on the evidence of Professor Forrest.