Cambridgeshire

Mother speaks of 'torment' over death of her baby in 1975

baby inquest Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Anastasia Roche has turned to a coroner to investigate her baby son's death in 1975

A mother "tormented" over the loss of her one-day-old baby 44 years ago has turned to a coroner for answers.

Anastasia Roche, 65, from Newmarket, has fought for an inquest into the death of her son, James Madden-Cansdale, in December 1975.

She told a pre-inquest review she was too ill to attend her son's funeral - and had no idea where he was buried.

"It's been ongoing for 40 years, the whole experience has been horrific," she said.

Image copyright Anastasia Roche
Image caption Anastasia Roche pictured in the 1970s. She was 21 when her son James died

Mrs Roche said her baby was "born healthy" at 36 weeks on 4 December 1975, at the former Mill Road Maternity Hospital in Cambridge.

Assistant coroner, Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, told the hearing in Huntingdon that James "suffered from respiratory problems" and had an issue with the lining of his lungs, "common in premature babies".

Mrs Roche - who went on to have two more children - told the coroner she first requested her medical records in the early years after her son's death.

"He was neglected. That's how I felt," she said.

Image caption Mrs Roche has been told her son was buried in a communal baby grave in Cambridge City cemetery

A post-mortem examination carried out at the time cited "hyaline membrane disease and septicaemia" as the causes of death.

However, Mrs Roche said she had "beaten herself up over the years" with the fear she may have passed on an infection during his birth.

"That's why I kept pursuing Addenbrooke's because they were the authority responsible for the administration of Mill Road when it closed," she said.

She has also asked the coroner to find out where her son is buried, as she understands he was laid to rest in a "communal grave" in Cambridge City cemetery.

"I just want the truth," she said.

"There are so many unanswered questions."

Image caption The cemetery is owned by the city council and staff have been unable to specify where her son was buried

The former hospital on Mill Road was a full maternity unit from 1948 until services transferred with the opening of the current Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge in 1983.

Addenbrooke's Hospital holds the archives of Mill Road, including births, deaths and admissions dating from 1936.

Image copyright Google
Image caption The former Mill Road Maternity Hospital site in Cambridge

In a statement, a spokeswoman from Cambridge University Hospitals said: "We fully appreciate the sensitivity of this case.

"We are looking into it further and will be responding to the coroner's request for information."

"A lot of time has gone by and this presents us with difficulties," Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said.

"We have to try to reconstruct what happened.

"In an ideal world we would be able to get hold of those records, without which it is difficult to piece together events."

No date has yet been set for the inquest.

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