TV Actress Leigh Arnold Found Baby Son Dead In His Father's Arms

An actress has told how she left her baby son at home for the first time since his birth and returned to find him dying in his dad's arms.

Irish TV star Leigh Arnold spoke at an inquest into the death of her two and a half week old son, Flynn, who is thought to have suffered Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Miss Arnold said she went out with a friend to a restaurant near her home in Ashley, Cheshire, in May last year and left her son with his dad Steve Davies.

When she left, Flynn was drinking happily from his bottle. She later phoned home to check up on her baby because she was 'anxious about him', but was reassured after hearing him in the background.

Miss Arnold said: "I could hear him gurgling - happy gurgling. I knew they were having a lovely time."

Mr Davies later fell asleep cradling tiny Flynn at around 11pm and was awoken by Miss Arnold's screams when she returned from her meal at 1.30am.

Miss Arnold, star of Irish series The Clinic, told the hearing: "I got in and went to the living room and saw them both asleep. Flynn was lying facing up.

"I could see his whole body. He wasn't squashed. I saw by his face there was definitely something wrong.

"I just know that I screamed an awful lot and my legs went from under me - I don't remember an awful lot else.

"He was a perfect baby. He was healthy and extremely loved and adored and is missed every second of the day. Whether we will ever have an answer to what happened, I don't know."

Despite desperate efforts by the couple and paramedics to revive the baby, he was pronounced dead at Wythenshawe Hospital in Greater Manchester an hour later.

Miss Arnold, who also has a two-year-old son, Hunter, said: "There were a lot of cuddles and a lot of love and the family all came over from Ireland when he was born.

"On that day or the days before he had no temperature or cough and the health visitor said everything was normal. He was feeding perfectly and there was no difference from my last baby.

"I was invited out to dinner and didn't feel it was the right thing to do but, knowing it was only down the road, Steven said 'go and have a break' and I knew he would be okay so I went out with my friend for dinner."

Mr Davies dropped his wife off at the restaurant and visited the supermarket, returning home with Flynn at 8pm while the family's au pair took care of Hunter.

He said: "I went into the lounge with Flynn and he fell asleep on the chaise lounge I put the TV on and took Flynn out of his cradle. He kept waking up then going back to sleep.

"I warmed a bottle up for him and he woke up again and had that. I was feeding him and Leigh called me to see if he was alright. I said he was OK and feeding at the time.

"I was feeding him and he was in my arms. I was laid down on the chaise lounge and he was in the crook of my left arm. That was the last thing I remember."

Dr Cate Lenton, a paediatrician from Wythenshawe Hospital, also described Flynn as a 'perfect baby', but added that cot death doesn't necessarily have to happen in cots.

She said: "While they are asleep they just turn off. It is just a baby that stops while it is asleep."

An investigation by police and the Home Office found nobody was at fault and nothing could have been done to save him.

Home Office pathologist Dr Gauri Batra gave a cause of death as 'unascertained', but added that there was nothing at all to indicate an unnatural cause of death.

Reaching a conclusion of death by natural causes, coroner Janet Napier addressed a tearful Miss Arnold and Mr Davies and said: "Flynn is a very much-missed and very much-loved child. He was the light of your life as well as your other child.

"There was no evidence of any illness whatsoever. This was a sudden, tragic switching off in the sleep. I can't properly say how awful this is. I give you my sincere sympathy."

Miss Arnold and Mr Davies were due to wed last year but postponed the ceremony after Flynn's death to this February.

Miss Arnold shot to fame in 2003 when she became one of the biggest names in Irish television for her role as Dr Clodagh Delaney in RTE's The Clinic, playing the character for six series.

Information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome can be found here.