By JR on Friday, September 30, 2011
A mother was arrested for murder after hospital misdiagnosed her son, 3, and sent him home to die. Is every parent who loses a child to be treated as a murderer?
The young mother of a three-year-old toddler who died of a chest infection was arrested on suspicion of his murder and held in a police cell for 24 hours, an inquest heard today.
Abby Podmore, 20, whose son Alfie Podmore had been misdiagnosed by hospital staff, was prevented from seeing his body until 10 days after his death.
In a statement to the inquest at Birmingham Coroner's Court, Ms Podmore, from Quinton, Birmingham, described her arrest as a 'horrifying' event which had robbed her of the chance to grieve for Alfie.
In the statement, which was read to the court by Birmingham Coroner Aidan Cotter, Ms Podmore told how her son was taken ill while at his nursery on February 2.
Alfie, who was not known to social services, was taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital the following day, but was discharged after staff failed to diagnose a developing infection on his lung.
The inquest heard that antibiotics may have saved Alfie, but he was instead given antacid medication and he died at his home on February 6.
Ms Podmore was arrested on suspicion of his murder just hours after his death. In her statement, Ms Podmore said a doctor at the hospital had told her that Alfie, who had a fever and shoulder pain, was suffering from a virus.
The grieving mother, who works as a dental nurse, said: 'We just thought this was a 24-hour bug and he would get better.'
Relating how she tried in vain to revive Alfie when she found him on the morning of February 6, Ms Podmore added: 'I knew he was not breathing so I started to give him CPR.' An ambulance then arrived, the inquest heard, but police then asked Ms Podmore to leave the house and change out of her clothes.
Commenting on her arrest for murder, Ms Podmore said: 'I found it distressing because I wanted to be with his body. 'I was in a state of shock and didn't know what was going on.'
Two riot vans and a total of 15 police officers then arrived at the address and Ms Podmore's partner was also detained by the police. Ms Podmore continued: 'I couldn't believe what was happening - I felt like I was being treated like a criminal.'
Neighbours had looked on as Ms Podmore and her partner were arrested, Mr Cotter was told, and the pair were then taken to separate police stations.
It was only when a doctor acting on behalf of the Birmingham Coroner informed police that Alfie had died from natural causes that her innocence was recognised. A post-mortem later revealed that he had suffered from pneumonia, a bacterial infection and septicemia.
Although Ms Podmore's partner was released quickly, she was kept in custody until the following day. 'I remained in a police station for 24 hours,' she said. 'Looking back, I feel I have been robbed of the chance to say goodbye to Alfie.'
Ms Podmore only just returned home this week after living with relatives since the incident. She said some members of the community still believed she played some part in Alfie's death.
Paying tribute to her first son, she said; 'He was boisterous, happy. He was always smiling, dancing. Everything he did made me laugh. I have lost all that now. It has been hard to come back home because he is not here so it doesn't feel like the same place anymore. The happiness has been sucked out.'
In a statement released in July, West Midlands Police said it had launched an internal investigation into the circumstances of the 21-year-old mother's arrest.