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Cot bed designer admits York baby choke death failure

Craig WilliamsImage copyright Ben Lack
Image caption Craig Williams had denied manslaughter and fraud in relation to Oscar Abbey’s death

A designer has admitted a health and safety failing after a seven-month-old baby “choked to death” in a cot bed.

Oscar Abbey was found by his parents, caught in the side of his bed at their home in York on 3 November 2016.

He had got his head stuck while trying to crawl through a gap in the cot sold by Craig Williams’s Playtime Beds Ltd.

Williams, 37, from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to failing to discharge the employer’s general duty.

Charlie and Shannon Abbey had paid £655 including delivery costs for the cot bed, which featured a slide, from the firm owned by Williams.

‘He’s not breathing’

Jurors heard the couple were told by the designer the bed was suitable for children aged six or seven months and their son first started using it on 28 October 2016.

In a statement read during the trial, Mrs Abbey, 23, said: “At no point was I advised that it was not suitable.”

Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Oscar Abbey died of positional asphyxia after he got his head stuck, the court heard

On the night of Oscar’s death, prosecutor John Elvidge QC, had told the court: “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.”

Mr Abbey, 24, said in his statement he found his son trapped face-down in the front of the cot.

“It looked like he’d tried to crawl out backwards but his head was stuck,” he said.

Mrs Abbey also described how she woke up and heard her husband “shouting and screaming: ‘He’s not breathing’.

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

‘He didn’t care’

Mr Elvidge told the court Playtime Beds Ltd had received a complaint in March 2016 from a customer saying the bed she bought did not meet standards.

But Williams told the customer: “I have been in touch with trading standards and they are happy with my products,” the prosecutor said.

Mr Elvidge said the trading standards office had no record of contact from the defendant.

The court heard Williams continued to make beds and did not alter his designs even after Oscar’s death.

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

Sheffield-based company Playtime Beds Ltd made bespoke MDF beds in various shapes.

As Williams had admitted a charge under the Health and Safety at Work Act the jury was asked to return a not guilty verdict to gross negligence manslaughter.

Williams, of Park View Road, Kimberworth, also pleaded guilty to fraud.

He is due to be sentenced on Friday alongside employee Joseph Bruce, 30, of Kimberworth Park Road, Rotherham, who also admitted the same charge.

Bruce had been purported to be running a new bed company set up following Oscar’s death, but that was still Williams’ firm.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-45966206

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