Parents under scrutiny over baby's death

Police say it will be at least a fortnight before they decide whether to charge the parents of five-week-old boy who died while he was left alone.

The parents of the baby were next door when he died suddenly, in Manurewa, on New Year's Day.

Because of the circumstances the case has had additional police scrutiny, Child, Youth and Family has been involved and the police child protection team has liaised with the coroner.

Detective Inspector Jim Gallagher wants a decision regarding charges made as soon as possible.

"We hope to progress this reasonably early for the sake of the family," he said.

Gallagher said lab test results would need to be worked through with "relevant parties" and further interviews may be needed.

The baby's parents were believed to be drinking at their neighbours' house when he died in his cot.

Gallagher has previously said they were devastated.

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

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

Police will work with their legal section to decide if charges should be laid.

When the child was discovered, the Fire Service attended to assist police by supplying thermal imaging equipment to determine if the temperature of the room was a factor in the death.

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

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

He ultimately decided the babies died of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), or cot death.

About 45 babies die from SIDS each year in New Zealand - a major improvement from two decades ago when 250 babies died annually from it.

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 of them boys.

Auckland Now