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Police probe baby death at Alder Hey

POLICE are investigating the alleged unlawful killing of a baby at a Liverpool children's hospital 15 years ago.

POLICE are investigating the alleged unlawful killing of a baby at a Liverpool children's hospital 15 years ago.

Merseyside police began the inquiry after seeking the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service.

It relates to the death at the hospital of 10-day-old Craig Rigby, after heart surgery.

Craig's mother, Julie, 39, made a complaint to police after studying Craig's medical notes - obtained after she discovered he was involved in the Alder Hey organs retention scandal.

She claims parental consent for the operation, a pioneering new procedure, had been given on the understanding Craig had a 50-50 chance of survival.

According to Mrs Rigby, the medical notes indicated that her son's condition had deteriorated before the open heart surgery but she was not told.

If she and husband, Ken, had known, they say they would not have put Craig through the operation.

The police inquiry must establish if the hospital did fail to properly inform the parents of their child's condition, and whether going ahead with the operation amounted to unlawful killing.

Craig was born at Warrington General Hospital on January 2, 1986. Two days later, he was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome - a serious condition in which the left side of a baby's heart is underdeveloped and unable to pump oxygenated blood around the body.

He was transferred to Alder Hey Hospital's special baby care unit, in Myrtle Street, where doctors told the couple, who lived in Birchwood, Warrington, they had three choices.

They say they were told they could either take the baby home to die, prolong his life for a few extra days with special drugs, or go ahead with pioneering surgery, called the Norwood procedure.

"The doctors told us about what they called an innovative operation, which would give Craig a 50pc chance of survival," said Mrs Rigby.

"They said the operation had never been done before on a baby so young in the UK and they even asked us if they could video the operation because it was so unusual and we agreed." But the doctors made it clear to the couple, who have since moved to Salford in Manchester, that, even if Craig survived, he would be very ill.

"They said Craig would be a sickly child and possibly in a wheelchair for the rest of his life," said Mrs Rigby.

"We went into Liverpool city centre and wandered around for four or five hours.

"We sat in a restaurant and talked about it. We both agreed we did not want the baby to suffer and decided that, if they had said he had no chance of survival, we would not go ahead with the operation.

"We didn't want to needlessly traumatise the baby.

"But because we were told Craig had a 50pc chance of survival we agreed for them to go ahead with the operation."

The surgery was scheduled for January 14 when Craig was 12 days old. Mrs Rigby says the hospital notes reveal his condition deteriorated when he was six days old. But Mrs Rigby says she was not told about the deterioration in his condition.

Doctors went ahead with the open heart surgery, but Craig died shortly afterwards in recovery.

Lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service studied Mrs Rigby's allegations and advised a police investigation, headed by a senior officer.

A letter to Mrs Rigby from a senior case officer states: "I have advised the police that there are grounds upon which they can start an investigation."

Merseyside Police yesterday confirmed they were looking into Mrs Rigby's allegations.

Det Supt Peter Currie said: "We are investigating the circumstances surrounding the child's death.

"We are currently in the process of gathering material together, which we will pass to the CPS to decide whether any criminal conduct has taken place."

A spokeswoman for Alder Hey said: "The hospital has been informed that the inquest into the death of this child has been postponed subject to an investigation by Merseyside Police.

"The hospital will of course fully co-operate with the coroner and police in any investigation they undertake."


David Holmes
Chief News Reporter
David Norbury
Mike Fuller
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