An innocent Manchester mother-of-nine, whose tenth child died in mysterious circumstances, has told how she and the youngster’s father were wrongly treated as suspects by detectives during a secret 17-month criminal investigation.
Former care home worker Jacinta Fingleton, 44, from Cheetham Hill, was left devastated after her 11-month-old daughter Heidi passed away on June 4 2013 following a series of unexplainable seizures which caused her to lose consciousness.
But unbeknownst to her, due to the mysterious nature of Heidi’s illness, doctors and the police had become suspicious about the youngster’s ‘strange presentation’.
They began a secret criminal investigation into Jacinta and her partner Wayne Barker, 47, a warehouse assistant, following the baby’s death.
Experts from North Manchester General Hospital, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and North Staffordshire Hospital were all unsuccessful in finding a cause for the Heidi’s seizures or any specific sign of virus or disease. They began to suspect she was smothered.
Eventually doctors agreed Heidi was suffering from a ‘genuine illness’ and although a post-mortem could not establish a cause of death, foul play was ruled out.
But Jacinta only learnt of the criminal investigation earlier this month – just two and a half weeks before an inquest into Heidi’s death.
Today a coroner recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.
Jacinta, who since the tragedy has split up with Wayne after an 18-year relationship, said: “When I found out we were under suspicion throughout I felt sick to my stomach.
“Obviously I knew police were investigating what happened to Heidi but never did I think we were being treated as suspects.
“I only found out when I received the investigation papers just a few weeks ago and it all came out of the blue. We were looking for some answers at Heidi’s inquest but now we have even more questions than ever before.
“It feels like I let Heidi down because I haven’t got any of the answers that I wanted for her. I’m still in the same position I was 17 months ago.”
She added: “I had been interviewed by the police for a background check and had to spend four hours in the police station after she died.
“They seemed quite nice but it seems everybody was concerned because she was in hospital for such a long time and nothing had really been done.
“I didn’t ever get to have these conversations with people from the hospital or police. They never asked me what was going on.
“All I did get asked was if me and Heidi’s dad were cousins but my response to that was too unsuitable to be said publicly. I brought up all of my children with no problems. It was a horrible thing to ask.
“Since Heidi passed away all of our lives have been in turmoil. I’ve had to leave work and at the moment I’m living with my sister until I get a new house.
“I can’t go back to the house where I lived with Heidi. The whole thing has been terrible – horrendous.”
Earlier Jacinta told the inquest how Heidi was very small when she was born in June 2012 and she was first admitted to hospital in December of that year.
She added: “There was an issue at home which resulted in a visit to the hospital and Heidi became unresponsive and pale and they said it was viral.
“There was another episode in January where it was a similar presentation and there was a tentative diagnosis of bronchitis.
“She was in hospital again on March 15 where she was struggling to breathe. On April 12 I saw her presentation and raised the alarm because I didn’t think it was right.”
Doctors transferred Heidi to another hospital where medics checked behind her eyes for bleeding to see if she had banged her head but when the tests came back all clear they began to mistakenly treat the seizures as suspicious and made an entry which listed them as ‘induced by smothering’.
From April Heidi was seen by a specialist in metabolic disease and transferred to North Staffordshire Hospital for further consultation but after being sent home was rushed to North Manchester General Hospital on June 4 last year struggling to breathe.
She suffered another seizure which led to a cardiac arrest and could not be revived.
A post-mortem examination was conducted by a leading paediatric pathologist – as well as a pathologist specialising in injuries.
Dr Philip Lumb – the injury expert – said Heidi was not suffering from any injuries and Dr Melanie Newbold, a consultant paediatric pathologist from Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, said she ‘wasn’t able to find a logical explanation for the seizures’ and gave a cause of death as unascertained.
Recording a verdict of death by natural causes Manchester Coroner Nigel Meadows said: “Following Heidi’s death there were certainly initial concerns as to whether or not something strange was going on in the background but as a result of the police investigation they are satisfied it wasn’t.”
He added: “Babies and adults can have one seizure and not survive. Some can have 100 and survive. The hospitals could not identify precisely what the cause was to give the right form of treatment. Had they been able to identify a cause that was treatable they would have commenced treatment.
“It may be in the future science will be able to establish why a child like Heidi has these seizures. Time will tell. At the present time we can’t say. You have my very sincere sympathies.
“Do not think you are alone in suffering this sort of loss. There are many parents in this country and around the world who lose children in these circumstances.
“The most extensive investigations have been made that could possibly be made but we still haven’t been able to find the result.”
Jacinta’s oldest children Samantha, 25, Jordan, 21 and Emma, 18, have all left home whilst Sophie, 17 and Rebecca, 14, live with Wayne.
Warren, 15, Luke, 8, Lily, 7 and Ellie, 4, currently live with Jacinta in her sister’s house.
Det Insp Neil Charnock from Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division, said: “We can confirm that a police investigation was carried out into the circumstances of the tragic death of this baby and that the mother was spoken to as part of that investigation, to ensure that all the facts were known.
“The subsequent post-mortem examination of the baby revealed that the baby had passed away as a result of natural causes.
“This was a very sad and tragic incident but the police have to remain open to all potential possibilities in such cases where there is no explainable or obvious cause to the sudden and unexpected death of any person. Our thoughts are with the family at this time.”
Story via Cavendish Press.
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