A grieving 23-year-old gave heartbreaking evidence yesterday of how “the hardest thing I have ever done” was to look at his dead toddler step-son “one last time”.
Giving evidence at an inquest into the death of 17-month-old Jamie Thomas Wright McGee, the boy’s step-father Kieran Wright recounted how he found Jamie foaming at the mouth in his cot.
“He was making noises trying to speak to me and I tried to get the hold of Brenda,” said the chef.
Paramedics rushed to the home he shared with Jamie’s mum Brenda McGee at Parkgate Parade, east Belfast.
The child was taken to hospital but died that same day, June 17 last year.
“The doctors took Jamie to try to work on him but they came in and said that there was nothing else they could do. I went to see Jamie one last time and it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do,” he told Coroner Jim Kitson.
Expressing his sincere and deepest condolences to both Brenda and Mr Wright, Coroner Kitson recorded that Jamie died when he “most rapidly succumbed to natural illness,” namely bronchial pneumonia.
Coroner Kitson opened the inquest by declaring its purpose to be to ascertain “how where and when” Jamie died and to “allay suspicion and rumour”, but not to be an avenue to settle disputes.
The court heard that Social Services had been heavily involved with Jamie’s family, but their assistance “had been sought rather then imposed”, and there were “no concerns” about them.
Mr Wright recounted how Jamie was “fine” before he went to bed for the night, and later he was “really peaceful in his sleep... snoring away”.
What was unusual was that instead of waking around 7am or 8am, Jamie slept until around 2pm.
As he went up to lift him, Mr Wright heard a “weird noise”, like a moaning sound.
He found his step-son “lying face down at the bottom of the cot, arms sticking through the bars... foaming at the mouth”.
He called 999 and followed the operator’s instructions to keep Jamie on his side across his knee so he did not choke.
Turning to his conclusions, the coroner said apart from problems with reflux, Jamie had been a “normal little boy”.
The post-mortem showed no injuries, and indicated that he had rapidly succumbed to natural illness, “effectively... bronchial pneumonia”.
Speaking outside, Mr Wright said the inquest was “some form of closure” – but he would never forget Jamie.