Baby's parents demand rickets death hospital inquiry

Rohan Wray and Channa Al-Alas said they felt like one doctor was accusing them of harming their child

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A young couple acquitted of murdering their four-month-old son have called for an inquiry into two London hospitals responsible for his care.

Rohan Wray, 22, and Chana Al-Alas, 19, of London, were accused of abusing baby Jayden but his fractures were later found to have been caused by rickets.

They told the BBC that the Great Ormond Street and University College hospitals should have diagnosed the disease.

The hospitals have defended their care of Jayden before his death in 2009.

A University College Hospital spokesman said its clinicians "acted with Jayden's interests at heart".

"We regret that we were unable to reverse his deteriorating condition despite our intensive efforts in the short time he stayed with us. We would like to offer our sincere condolences to Jayden's parents," he said.

Analysis

It is difficult to hear of a more astonishing ordeal than that endured by the parents of baby Jayden.

Accused of murdering their first child who died of natural causes, the couple had to suffer the shock of seeing their second baby taken away in the delivery room and taken into care.

They were acquitted of murder at the Old Bailey last December but have not been able to speak until now due to their family court battle to have their baby daughter Jayda returned to them.

That fight ended successfully on Thursday. For almost three years, they were treated as murder suspects not only by police and medical experts but also strangers in the street who recognised them from newspaper reports.

Both parents want their story told and an inquiry held to help other innocent parents in similar circumstances.

Solicitors and other medical experts say there are many other parents also accused of abuse and murder of children where rickets is later found to be the cause.

Great Ormond Street said the rickets abnormalities had been less obvious to hospital radiologists than at the later autopsy and that it regretted the family's distressing time.

Criminal charges against Jayden's parents were dropped in December 2011, after witnesses were unable to agree on the cause of the boy's death. But civil action was then taken by the local authority, Islington, which said Jayden had died from trauma inflicted on him by his parents.

'Horrible two years'

On Thursday, family court judge Mrs Justice Theis cleared Jayden's parents of responsibility for the death of their son and criticised the two hospitals for what she described as sub-optimal care.

Jayden had a fractured skull and died from brain damage and swelling. He had been suffering from severe rickets, a disease caused by vitamin-D deficiency that causes bones to become soft.

In their first broadcast interview, given to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Jayden's mother and father voiced their anger at Great Ormond Street and University College hospitals.

They described being asked at University College Hospital (UCH) if they knew how Jayden's injuries had occurred.

"I said apart from him rolling over in his cot and hitting his head on the side of the bars I can't think of any other explanation because we haven't dropped him, nothing's dropped on him," Mr Wray said. "The look from them was that simply they didn't believe my explanation."

Dr Arun Ghosh, GP explains why some people are more likely to get rickets

The couple said they believed that Jayden would still be alive had his condition been correctly diagnosed at UCH and that they blamed both hospitals for his death.

Ms Al-Alas said they were prevented from seeing Jayden after he was transferred to Great Ormond Street and later learned the hospital had spent four hours getting his injuries scanned.

"He wasn't being treated then. They didn't know his brain readings - they wasn't checking that - they was just concentrating on getting the right pictures and he could've been treated then as well." Lessons needed to be learned, she said.

Mr Wray said it had been a "horrible, horrible two years".

"I really feel that they didn't really know what they were doing and they just pre-judged us way too early," he said. "You should actually be treated as innocent until proven guilty and not guilty until proven innocent."

'Nightmare went on'

In a statement, a Great Ormond Street Hospital spokesman said the decision to prosecute Jayden's parents was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) after rickets had been diagnosed following Jayden's death.

"It is therefore fair to say that GOSH's radiological opinion was not the determining factor in that decision. Nor would a diagnosis of rickets at GOSH have altered the clinical outcome," he said.

"It is not for the trust to decide legal issues of criminal responsibility. We never took any position on whether any specific person caused these injuries."

A CPS spokesman said: "In bringing this prosecution we considered all of the evidence in detail and our policy on non-accidental head injuries, and were satisfied that there was a realistic prospect of conviction. There was no criticism of the CPS by the judge for bringing this case."

In her High Court ruling, Mrs Justice Theis said she could not be satisfied "on the balance of probabilities" that any of the fractures or the "traumatised fissure" were "as a result of inflicted deliberate harm caused to Jayden by either of these parents".

Mrs Justice Theis concluded that more research was needed on the impact of vitamin D deficiency and rickets on babies aged under six months.

The couple's daughter, who has been in the care of Islington since her birth in October 2010, has now been returned to them.

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