Unsupervised foster care toddler drowned in pool

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The Independent Online

A toddler in care drowned in a back garden swimming pool when she was left unsupervised by her foster parents, an inquest heard today.

Anna Hider, 17 months, had been playing with toys on the patio of the Hampshire home when she was discovered missing on the evening of July 29, 2007, the hearing was told.

Her foster mother had been ironing clothes in a nearby conservatory and her natural daughter, who had been collecting in clothes from the washing line, realised that Anna had gone.

She spotted her floating in the swimming pool and raised the alarm, the inquest heard.

Her unconscious body was retrieved from the pool and attempts were made to resuscitate her by a neighbour, who worked as a nurse, as well as by paramedics who arrived soon after.

But after attempts at both the home and at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, she was pronounced dead.

Detective Sergeant Matthew Gillooly, of the Hampshire police child abuse investigation unit, told the hearing that on the evening of Anna's death there had been at the house the foster parents, three of their natural children, three of their friends, Anna and another foster child.

He described how the older children, aged in their teens, had been looking after Anna during the evening inside the house before she had been playing with toys on the patio without any direct supervision.

He said: "There was no-one on the patio (with Anna) but there was someone with her a matter of feet away.

"At the time, the foster mother was ironing and the daughter of the foster mother and a friend of the daughter were taking washing in, walking across the grass past where Anna would have been.

"No-one has said that at that material time they were supervising Anna."

Det Sgt Gillooly added that the foster father had been carrying out maintenance to the pool earlier in the evening but had been inside the house when Anna's body was found.

He added that one of the children had said that on a previous occasion Anna had tried to sit on the plastic cover over the pool but had been stopped from doing so.

Dr Paul Sadler, a consultant in critical care medicine at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, said that attempts were made to resuscitate Anna for 51 minutes from when paramedics arrived at the scene.

He said he was not aware of allegations that a defibrillator machine used by the ambulance crew was faulty but said that such equipment was unlikely to have helped restart a child's heart.

And when asked if he agreed with a comment that Anna was of the typical age to have an accident, he said: "A mobile young child unaware of the dangers around them - this is a reasonable comment."

Dr Barbara Borek, forensic pathologist, said that a post mortem examination revealed that Anna had a frothy liquid in her lungs and said the cause of death was drowning.

Portsmouth coroner David Horsley said that he had granted anonymity to several of the witnesses because they had received threats following Anna's death.

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