Cot death expert dies trying to save dog

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The Independent Online

A leading cot death expert died yesterday when he returned to his blazing home to rescue his dog.

Professor John Emery, 85, whose research helped to establish sudden infant death as a recognised medical issue, was killed shortly after 5am. Witnesses said the retired doctor had initially managed to escape the blaze with his 82-year-old wife, Marjorie.

But Professor Emery then went back inside the cottage in search of his eight-year-old airedale terrier, Sophie.

The doctor, who had six children, was pulled from the wreckage of his home in the village of Aylburton, near Lydney, Gloucestershire, by firefighters but declared dead at the scene.

His eldest son Peter, 54, a former health service worker, said: "My father went back in. That was typical of him. He always put other people and even animals before himself."

Professor Emery, a paediatric pathologist, started working on cot death research in the 1950s, when he had to fight against the scepticism of the medical establishment.

In the 1970s, based at the Children's Hospital in Sheffield, he worked on the "risk-related intervention scheme". The diagnosis system, developed with Dr Richard Carpenter, was the first to underline the importance of examining all thecircumstances of a child's death.

In 1971, Professor Emery helped set up the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death - the organisation he continued to work for until his death.

The foundation's national co-ordinator, Ann Deri-Bowen, said: "He devoted just as much time to gently talking things over with parents as he did at studying statistics and comparing results. This was a vocation for him."