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‘Natural causes’ conclusion after Newmarket woman's 40-year fight for inquest




A coroner has concluded a baby who lived to be just one day old died of natural causes after his mother fought more than 40 years for the case to be re-opened.

Baby James Madden-Cansdale died in December 1975 at Mill Road Maternity Hospital, in Cambridge, an inquest heard.

Cambridgeshire coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp told the inquest in Huntingdon that on reviewing the evidence from the post-mortem examination she concluded James died of natural causes.

Cambridgeshire Coroners Court, Huntingdon(27172577)
Cambridgeshire Coroners Court, Huntingdon(27172577)

The case was referred to the coroners’ office two years ago after a complaint made by mother Anastasia Roche, 65, from Newmarket. She did not attend the inquest.

Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said it was ‘incredibly difficult’ to hold an inquest into the death which was so long ago. She said James’ medical records had been destroyed after 25 years, but the court had been able to look at his mother’s medical records.

The hearing was told that James was born prematurely at 36 weeks, weighing just 2.89lbs.

In Ms Roche’s statement, she said she gave birth to a ‘healthy’ baby before she fell asleep. The coroner said she had not been able to be with him immediately after birth but did see him for about 20 minutes before he was taken away to what would now bethe intensive care unit.

“She went back to her room and went to sleep and when she woke up she was informed that tragically he had died,” the inquest was told.

Ms Roche’s statement continued: “It was later that afternoon or evening when my mother and brother were visiting that the doctor came back to see me. I looked at the expression on his face and said ‘he’s died hasn’t he?’.

“He said yes and gave me a sedative injection and I went to sleep.”

She claimed she was told by one of the nurses: “I’m so sorry the baby died it was our fault. We were short staffed and didn’t realise he had difficulty breathing.”

However, Mrs Rhodes-Kemp concluded he died of natural causes as a result of septicaemia and hyaline membrane disease.

“He was clearly unwell at birth and sadly deteriorated. It’s not uncommon for first time mums, particularly mums of very newborn babies, not to necessarily detect subtle signs of illness such as James displayed when he was first born,” said Ms Rhodes-Kemp.

“Mum then went to sleep after her difficult labour and when she woke up he deteriorated and subsequently died as a result of his lung disease and overwhelming infection.”

Ms Roche said she had been too unwell to go to to her baby’s funeral and did not know where he was buried, but the coronerbelieved she had found the location.

“I have offered to go to the site with mum but unfortunately she declined. She expressed a strong wish to know where he rested so she could visit the grave,” said the coroner.

“That offer remains open to her.”


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