York baby choked to death ‘because of bed maker’s gross negligence’

The bed in which seven-month-old baby Oscar Abbey died
15 Oct 2018 @ 6.13 pm
| News

A seven-month-old York baby choked to death in his cot due to the gross negligence of the designer of the bed, a jury has been told.

Leeds Crown Court heard that Oscar Abbey was found by his parents, caught in the side of his bed at their home in Melrosegate.

On Monday (October 15), Craig Williams, the owner of the company which sold the bed to Charlie and Shannon Abbey, went on trial accused of gross negligence manslaughter.

John Elvidge QC, prosecuting, said Oscar died on November 3 2016 of positional asphyxia.

He said: “During the course of the night, he wriggled his body through the holes at the front of his cot bed.

“His head was too big to fit through.

“In effect, he choked to death. He was starved of oxygen.”

Designed without care

Mr Elvidge told the jury:

  • He died because the cot bed bought by his parents from the defendant’s company was designed and constructed without any care or thought for the safety of the child who was sleeping in it.

    Oscar died, say the prosecution, because of the defendant’s gross negligence.

The prosecutor said Mr and Mrs Abbey bought the bed from Williams’s Sheffield company, Playtime Beds Ltd, for £655, including delivery.

He said Williams was the designer of the firm’s beds and “controlling mind” of the company, which had two other employees.

Leeds Crown Court. Photograph © Mtaylor848 on Wikipedia

‘Suitable for all ages’

The company made bespoke, MDF beds in a range of shapes, the jury heard.

The court heard that the unit sold to the Abbeys included the cot and a bed for Oscar’s two-and-a-half-year-old brother, Maxwell.

Mr Elvidge said Mrs Abbey specifically asked Williams before purchase: “What age is the lower bed suitable for?”

He said Williams replied: “Any age.”

Mr Elvidge said Oscar had only started using the cot on October 28.

Williams, of Park View Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, denies manslaughter and fraud.

‘He’s not breathing’

In a statement read to the court, Mr Abbey, 24, described finding his son trapped face-down in the front of the cot. He said:

  • I instantly realised he’d gone.

    It looked like he’s tried to crawl out backwards but his head was stuck.

In her statement, Mrs Abbey, 23, said she woke up and “I heard Charlie shouting and screaming, ‘he’s not breathing’.

“I ran to the landing and Charlie was holding Oscar in both arms.”

A bed from Playtime Beds Ltd
Mr and Mrs Abbey said they had put Oscar to bed the night before with his brother. Mrs Abbey said she gave him a bottle after she arrived home from her shift at McDonald’s at about 11.25pm.

Mrs Abbey described how she had ordered the bed, which featured a slide from the top, from Playtime because the firm had good reviews and she had been assured by Williams that the cot was suitable for a child aged six or seven months.

She said: “At no point was I advised it was not suitable.”

Ignored the risks

Earlier Mr Elvidge said a customer had contacted Playtime Beds in March 2016 complaining that the product she bought did not comply with the correct standards.

He said Williams replied to the woman that “the bed is above safety standards” and “I have been in touch with trading standards and they are happy with my products”.

Mr Elvidge said trading standards officers had no record of contact from Williams.

The prosecutor said: “The defendant was aware of the risks to safety presented by his designs but he chose to ignore those risks, probably in his desire to make and save money.”

Mr Elvidge said that, after Oscar’s death, Williams did not stop making beds and did not even alter his designs.

He said: “Maybe the only reasonable inference to be drawn is that he didn’t care at all about the fate of those using his beds.”

‘A slight issue’

Mr Elvidge said an email was sent to Playtime customers which said: “There’s been a slight issue and the business has had to close for a couple of weeks.”

The prosecutor said a new company was set up which purported to be run by one his employees – Joseph Bruce – but was still Williams’s firm.

Bruce, 30, of Kimberworth Park Road, Rotherham, has admitted fraud, the jury was told.

Mr Elvidge said Playtime Beds made around three beds a week and had manufactured about 450 over three years.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.

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