Baby ‘suffocated on bed’ after dad fell asleep following night of heavy drinking

A six-month-old baby suffocated on his parents’ bed after his father fell asleep at his side following a night of drinking and drugs, an inquest heard.

Rhys Jones was found face-down on the bed at his home at around 3pm on February 3 2018.

Rhys’ parents, Christopher and Nicola Jones, had consumed 24 cans of lager between them and taken drugs, including cocaine, shortly before their son’s death, an inquest at Blackpool Town Hall heard.

No charges were brought against the pair by police – who said the grieving parents were "very open and honest" from the outset of their investigation.

Reading from a statement Mr Jones provided to the police, Mr Wilson told how Mr Jones, an aircraft engineer, attended a job interview in Cheshire on February 2.

When he returned he took his wife and son out for fish and chips in Thornton, Lancs., and the couple bought some lager, the inquest heard.

At 8.30pm that night, after both Mr and Mrs Jones had consumed one can of lager each, Mr Jones bathed Rhys and dressed him.

He was put in his Moses basket in the bedroom sometime between 9pm and 9.30pm.

Mr and Mrs Jones continued drinking downstairs before each snorting two lines of cocaine that Mrs Jones had left over from a night out.

In total, they drank 24 cans of lager, with Mr Jones consuming "14 or 15" of them.

The couple went to bed at around 4am, shortly after feeding Rhys, who had woken up briefly.

At 7.30am, Rhys stirred again and the couple took him downstairs, where he was fed by Mrs Jones.

The family stayed downstairs for two to three hours before Mr Jones took Rhys upstairs to "give Nicola some peace".

Mr Jones put Rhys on the pillow on the double bed and fed him.

He put Rhys down on his back around an arm’s length away from him and watched TV until he accidentally fell asleep at around noon.

Mr Jones later told police that he "felt merry but wouldn’t have driven a car".

He said he had no intention of falling asleep and if he had known he was going to, he would not have put Rhys on the bed.

At around 3pm, Mrs Jones entered the bedroom and found Rhys face-down and unresponsive, with his face blue and blood coming from his nose.

Mr Jones told the court that he believed his son’s body may have been pressed against his arm when he woke up, but Mrs Jones said she saw a small gap between them.

An ambulance was called and Rhys was taken with his parents to Blackpool Victoria Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Coroner Alan Wilson said there was not enough evidence to determine that Mr Jones had smothered his son, as Rhys had recently learned to roll onto his front.

He said: "I have to find ultimately that Rhys was not in a safe sleeping environment, not simply because of that evidence provided by Dr Armour, but because this was a situation whereby, unfortunately, he was sharing a bed with someone who had consumed alcohol, had been using cocaine, and that inevitably compromised the ability of the parent to respond to noises or movement the child might make.

"It remains unclear as to how he came to be on his front, and that’s where the level of cocaine and cannabis use may have been a factor, because we don’t know what happened, and neither does his father."

A blood test taken from Mr Jones at 5.40pm on the day of Rhys’ death found a level of blood alcohol too low for criminal charges to be brought.

By the time the test was taken, the court heard, it had been approximately 14 hours since Mr Jones’ last drink.

An examination of Rhys at the hospital showed no signs of trauma or injury and a blood sample was taken from Christopher with his consent.

Det Insp Kevin Simmons of Blackpool Police said there was no evidence that Rhys had been the victim of a crime, and there had been no third party involvement.

Handing down a conclusion of accidental death due to oxygen deprivation and acute airway obstruction, Mr Wilson said: "It’s clear to me that however it has happened, his airway has been obstructed.

"Whether that was as a result of coming into contact with his father, or whether it was as a result of finding himself on his front, his airway has been obstructed.

"It’s a distressing and very difficult set of circumstances."

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