Grieving mother has demanded answers after death of her four-month-old son

Alex Masters. Photo courtesy of Media Lincs.
Alex Masters. Photo courtesy of Media Lincs.

A young mother has demanded answers from the godmother of her four-month-old son after he died in her care.

Chloe Masters, aged 18, repeatedly asked Claire Sawyer, 41, how her son, Alex, had died during his inquest.

Miss Sawyer agreed to look after Alex overnight at a friend’s flat in Lincoln, the inquest at Lincoln Cathedral Centre heard this week.

Alex, from Gainsborough, died at Lincoln County Hospital on October 3, 2015.

Giving evidence, Miss Sawyer said she fed Alex by propping up his bottle of milk in his car seat during the night, but then got him out and fed him on the sofa when he woke again.

Miss Sawyer fell asleep at some point and then woke to find Alex lent forward.

She said: “I picked him up, he had milk coming out his nose and his mouth and he was making a noise as if to get it up. I was patting his back and then got on the phone to ring 999.”

Miss Sawyer denied she had rolled on the child while asleep, but admitted it was possible she had not heard him choking, because she was so tired.

She also denied a suggestion she had delayed ringing for an ambulance.

During the hearing, Alex’s mother repeatedly questioned Miss Sawyer, her second cousin.

Miss Masters asked: “Why did you think it was safe to sleep on the sofa with a four-month-old baby when you were nearly 40?”

Miss Sawyer replied: “I didn’t put him on the sofa to fall asleep, I put him on the sofa to feed him.”

Miss Masters asked: “Why did you change your story and say you bottle propped him in the car seat?”

Miss Sawyer replied: “I didn’t, I put him on the settee.”

Dr James Bosman, a consultant paediatrician, said: “There is only so much strength a baby has to get away from the bottle, and the milk will just continue to flow. It is something I would wholeheartedly recommend against.

“It is well known that bottle propping causes choking.”

Dr Bosman described the flat where Alex had been staying overnight with Miss Sawyer as “dirty, untidy and smelling of urine and cigarette smoke”.

Two Staffordshire terrier-type dogs were also present.

Alex had been left in the care of Miss Sawyer after his mother was prescribed strong medication for back pain caused by his birth.

Alex’s parents were aware Miss Sawyer had problems with drugs, but were told her “more responsible” daughter Alice, 21, would also be present, the inquest heard.

Michael Trotter, Alex’s father, said Miss Sawyer had told him she would not take “m-cat” while looking after his son.

Mr Trotter, who is no longer in a relationship with Alex’s mother, said he only felt Alex was safe to leave with Miss Sawyer if a third party was present.

A post mortem found two non-accidental fractures to Alex’s legs caused three to six days before his death.

Stuart Hamilton, who carried out a post mortem, told the inquest: “There is strong evidence milk was inhaled into the lungs. Do I think more likely or not that caused the death? I have not reached that level of certainty.

“It is possible that aspiration (inhalation) of milk could have been fatal but I cannot be certain on the balance of probabilities.

“I believe there are concerns about the position Alexander was sleeping in, not of the death, and possibility of inhaling milk. So I can’t say it was a cot death. I have to use the medical term of unascertained.”

Dr Hamilton ruled out sudden infant death.

The inquest heard there had been a “very significant” police investigation, as well as Lincolnshire County Council being subject to a “serious case review”.

Under questioning from coroner Stuart Fisher, Miss Sawyer admitted her daughter did not stay at the flat overnight as arranged because she was upset that a friend’s dog had been attacked.

Miss Sawyer admitted she did sometimes take drugs but insisted she did not take any illegal drugs or alcohol on that night.

Alex woke once during the night, she told the inquest: “I gave him his bottle in the car seat and propped it with a blanket. I then changed his nappy and put him back in his car seat, and he settled back down. I went back to sleep on the sofa.

“The next time Alex woke again it was daylight. I have no idea what time, he was crying. I went and got him a bottle, took him out of the car seat and sat him on the settee next to me.”

The inquest continues