No charges yet over Auckland baby's death

Last updated 10:53 04/01/2013

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No decision has been made on whether the parents of an unattended five-week-old boy who died this week will be charged.

The parents of the baby were next door when he died suddenly, in Manurewa, on Tuesday.

Because of the unusual circumstances the case has had additional police scrutiny, Child, Youth and Family have been called in and the police's Child Protection Team was conferring with coronial services.

Detective Inspector Jim Gallagher said he wanted a decision regarding charges made as soon as possible.

"We're limited by waiting for the completion of lab tests, so that'll be a factor that necessitates some delay," he said.

"But we hope to progress this reasonably early for the sake of the family."

The parents were believed to be drinking at a neighbour's house when the baby died in his cot.

They were devastated, Gallagher said.

"This is basically equivalent to a cot death. However there are some features that we need to verify and be satisfied about the truthfulness of what we've been told," he said.

"But you've got to remember these are parents who have just lost a five-week old baby."

Police will now liaise with legal experts to work out whether there is criminal culpability.

When the child was discovered on Tuesday the fire service attended to assist police by supplying thermal imaging equipment, as it was very hot in the room when officers arrived.

In April last year coroner David Crerar issued a warning about the dangers of overheating after the death of two babies in separate incidents within days of each other in September 2010.

He was unable to conclusively point to overheating as the cause of death, but he highlighted it as a factor in both.

He ultimately decided the babies died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or cot death.

Around 45 babies die each year in New Zealand from SIDS. That is a major improvement from two decades ago when 250 babies died each year of SIDS.

The reduction follows intensive campaigns to highlight risk factors.

SIDS is still responsible for the deaths of more babies between the ages of one month and one year than any other cause.

More than 80 per cent of all SIDS cases occur before six months of age, the majority boys.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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