Toddler spends two days alone with dead mother

ANTONIO BRADLEY
Last updated 16:47 04/11/2011
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Police coached the dehydrated toddler to remove the front door security chain

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"Mummy won't wake up," said three-year-old Shylah Silbery after spending up to two days alone locked inside an Upper Hutt flat with her dead mother.

Police coached the dehydrated toddler to remove the front door security chain after a family friend discovered her peering through a cat door on October 21.

Shylah's mother, 28-year-old Lauren Ruthella Silbery, did not respond to the friend's calls.

Worried family had asked the friend to check on the pair, and rushed to the Whakatiki St flat at the same time as police, grandmother Heather Silbery said yesterday.

"She was pleased to see us. For a kid that doesn't speak, one of the first sentences she said was, 'Mummy won't wake up'."

Upper Hutt police Senior Sergeant Jason McCarthy said officers coached Shylah into climbing a nearby chair beside the door and releasing the chain.

"It was definitely an outstanding thing to do given her age and the circumstances."

The toddler's grandmother said she knew her kind and caring daughter was dead when the door was opened and she saw Shylah.

"When we got in, her little nappies were down around her knees . . . She had had some food. She'd got it out of the fridge.

"I knew exactly what had happened - mother's instinct. You can't be as close to somebody like Lauren and not know. I pushed one of the cops back. He said, 'No, don't go up there'. I pushed him aside and I got upstairs and there she was."

Shylah spent four days in Hutt Hospital, where she was treated for dehydration and urine burns.

Police said her mother's death was not suspicious, but were now investigating for the coroner. An autopsy had been completed.

Mrs Silbery said: "There's no way Lauren would do anything silly. She loved the socks off that little girl. She was a really devoted mum."

She talked to her daughter each day and went on weekly shopping trips with her. "She's one of these people that always had people around at her place. She was a carer to a lot of kids that need somebody to talk to."

The thought of Shylah trapped in the house had "just about annihilated" her, but she knew the toddler would recover.

When the family returned to the flat, Shylah would not go inside her mother's bedroom.

"All the family arrived from Auckland and had Lauren brought back here. Shylah sat by the coffin, held her mum's hand, rubbed her arm and said, 'Mummy's not waking up'. She knew."

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The family visited Shylah yesterday and took her out to lunch.

"She doesn't have her spark she used to have but that will come back with time. But she's still got her little sense of humour . . . as her uncle David picked up a chip to put it in his mouth, she'd grab it and eat it . . . then she'd laugh her little head off."

Mrs Silbery said police had been "absolutely brilliant" in supporting the family. Fairfax NZ

- Fairfax Media

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