Dad 'instantly knew' his seven month old baby had died in cot, Leeds Crown Court hears

A devastated father has described the heartbreaking moment he found his seven-month-old baby dead in a bespoke cot made by a Yorkshire bed company.

Wednesday, 17th October 2018, 1:38 pm
Updated Wednesday, 17th October 2018, 3:08 pm
The cot in which the baby died. Photo: PA

A jury at Leeds Crown Court was told Oscar Abbey died from "positional asphyxia" on November 3 2016 after sleeping in a bed designed and constructed by Playtime Beds Limited, based in Sheffield.

Tragic baby Oscar "wriggled his body" through holes in the front of his cot bed during the night, a jury heard.

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Craig Williams outside Leeds Crown Court

His body was on the outside of his cot while his head remained on the inside when he was found by his ‘devastated’ father, Charlie Abbey, at 6:30am. He was starved of oxygen and effectively "choked to death", prosecutor John Elvidge QC told the court.

The court heard a distressing statement read by the prosecutor from baby Oscar's father who described how he "instantly" thought his child was "gone" when he found him.

Craig Williams, 37, the boss of firm Playtime Beds Ltd The emotional statement spoke of the devastating moment Mr Abbey discovered his son on the morning of November 3.

Baby Oscar had only started to sleep in the £655 bed on October 28, the court heard.

On the night of November 2, he was put to bed by his father Charlie as his mother Shannon was working in McDonald's.

When Mrs Abbey returned to the home in York at 11.30pm, she checked on Oscar who was gurgling and given milk.

However, at 6.30am on the morning of November 3, Mr Abbey discovered Oscar "unconscious and not breathing".

Mr Abbey described Oscar as "cold" when he knelt down at his side after finding him with his body faced down and his head stuck in the front gates of the cot-bed positioned below the bigger bed occupied by his brother, two-and-a-half-year-old, Maxwell. The court heard how Mr Abbey had to thread his son's body back through the hole in order to carry him away from the cot.

Mr Abbey said: "It looked like he had tried to crawl out but his head was stuck. I crouched down next to him.

"When I got hold of Oscar I felt he was very cold. I instantly realised he was gone.

"I grabbed Oscar and ran through to our bedroom to shout Shannon to phone an ambulance."

In a moving statement read to the court, Mrs Abbey described how she awoke to Mr Abbey shouting, 'he is not breathing'.

Mrs Abbey started to perform CPR on Oscar from instructions given over the phone while the paramedics were on their way to their home, the court heard. After being rushed to hospital, the parents were given the devastating news Oscar had died.

Williams was the "controlling mind" of Playtime Beds Limited established in 2011 which designed "bespoke" beds, the prosecutor told the court.

The court also heard Williams had qualified with an NVQ Level 2 in Wood Occupations. He manufactured three beds a week for around three years, constructing around 450 beds in total, the court was told. In 2013, Williams contacted an insurance company inquiring about the price to insure his company in the event of a child hurting themselves. Despite the cover being quoted at £73.16 annually, Williams decided against taking it, the jury was told. In March 2016, the court was told Williams was contacted by a customer who had purchased a bed.

She had been told the bed was unsafe by British Standards, the court heard.

After being contacted by the customer, the defendant replied and stated the bed she had purchased was "above safety standards". The court heard the first contact between Williams and British Trading Standards was on November 3 2016 - the day of Oscar's death.

Following the death of Oscar, an order was made for the company to cease trading and distributing beds. However, the court was told, a new company named Magical Dream Beds Ltd was setup and fronted by a former colleague of Williams' named Joseph Bruce.

In fact, the prosecution allege, the new company was "notionally fronted" by Williams and orders which had been due to be carried out were completed.

On Nov 22 2016 Magical Dream Beds delivered a bed to a customer, the court was told. When questioned by police, Williams gave a statement that he had nothing to do with the new company and refused to answer further questions.

The prosecutor said: "[Williams] was aware of the risks but chose to ignore these risks in order to save money." The defendant's behaviour showed an attempt "to continue to make money from customers" by misleading customers about the quality of his beds, the prosecutor said to conclude his opening.

Joseph Bruce, 31, of Rotherham has previously pleaded guilty to one count of fraud by false representation.