A mother has described how a frantic search for her missing toddler ended in tragedy when he was discovered drowned in their garden pond.
Three-year-old Rodney Lawrence went missing after celebrating his older brother's birthday party at their home in Kingsclear, Hampshire, an inquest heard yesterday.
The child had asked if he could feed his goldfish shortly before he disappeared, but had been told not to by his father.
Rodney had always been barred from going near the 5ft deep pond by himself, which was surrounded by a fence and gate.
'He was very aware of not leaning in too far and things like that,' said Rodney's mother, Marie Lawrence.
Marie was listening to Rodney's brothers, Harry, Alfie and Billy, reading their homework when she realised her youngest son was missing.
Knowing how much Rodney loved the fish, the first place she looked was the pond. ' I imagined you would see someone on the top if they had fallen in,' she said. But she described how, on not finding him there, she and Rodney's father Jonathan, a landscape gardner, had called police and friends to help in the desperate search.
It was Marie's friend, Claire Hearne, who found Rodney in the pond. ' I went up to the gate, went in and stood at the edge and looked right down and saw Rodney at the bottom. I jumped in. I remember grabbing his top and pulling him up and putting him on the decking.'
Claire tried CPR, and then a police officer took over the resuscitation attempts, which continued for 12 minutes before and air ambulance took Rodney to hospital in Southampton, where he was pronounced dead.
North east Hampshire coroner Andrew Bradley, recording a verdict of accidental death, said: 'One of my hobby horses is that ponds should be fenced – it was, you were here, it was all immediate, how much safer could it be?
'It doesn't work because in the twinkling of an eye Rodney goes missing.
'The greatest danger is the proximity of water, in particular for a boy like Rodney who had a fascination for fish, but it's fatal.'