Girl died after playhouse modified, inquest told

An outdoor playhouse at a nursery centre had been modified before a young girl's head got wedged in the angle of a window causing her to have a heart attack, an inquest has heard.

Rhiya Malin, aged two, from Chigwell, Essex, was pronounced dead in hospital after paramedics were called to the Eton Manor Children's Day Nursery, Chigwell, on November 7, 2007.

An inquest into her death at Essex Coroner's Court today heard she was one of 13 or 14 children being supervised by four members of staff inside the Flounders room of the nursery, when the youngsters were permitted to play outdoors for 25 minutes.

When they were called back inside, Rhiya, who had been attending the nursery for a year, did not respond.

Giving evidence on the first day of the inquest into her death, paediatric pathologist Professor Rupert Risdon said he understood compression on the little girl's neck, caused by her head becoming wedged in the angle of an outdoor playhouse window while she was looking outside, was likely to have triggered a heart attack, causing her death.

"Even brief neck compression can lead rapidly to death," he said.

While she had been born several weeks premature, the inquest heard Rhiya was a lively, happy and healthy child, but had been a bit grizzly and clingy on the day of her death, because she wanted to remain at home, rather than go to the nursery, her father Jean-Pierre Malin said.

Mr Malin said he was initially told by a staff member at the nursery on November 7, 2007, that his daughter had suffered a fit, and that he needed to go to Whipps Cross hospital immediately.

When he got there a police officer told him his daughter was found hanging inside the nursery's outdoor playhouse.

"At least six or seven doctors were trying to resuscitate her," he said.

After half an hour of failed attempts to revive Rhiya, a doctor said "does anyone see any reason why we should continue?" Mr Malin said.

Prash Popat, lawyer for Mr Malin and his wife Shati, asked if the couple were aware the nursery's outdoor playhouse had been modified after it was purchased by the nursery.

"I wasn't aware of that" Mr Malin replied.

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