Keira-Mae Jones: Newborn baby's death was due to 'unlawful act of her mother' says coroner

A coroner has asked the CPS to “re-assess” charging a Barnsley mother with manslaughter over the death of her baby.

Keira-Mae Jones was only two days old when she suffered catastrophic brain damage after she was found face down on the bed in her mother’s room on the neonatal ward at Barnsley Hospital on May 16, 2020.

Despite healthcare professionals fighting for her life and even resuscitating her, the decision was made 16 weeks later to turn off her life support at the Jessop Wing hospital in Sheffield. She died at 2.50pm on Monday, September 14.

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Following the co-sleeping incident, her mother and father - Amy Jones, 32, from Athersley - was arrested on suspicion of “criminal overlay” for taking the little girl to bed while under the influence of substances.

A coroner has directed the CPS to reassess charging a woman with manslaughter over the death of her infant baby girl.

Keira-Mae’s father, Alex Jones, 38, from Athersley, was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice.

They were both released without any further action on May 20.

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But at the infant’s inquest on Thursday (January 20), senior coroner David Urpeth ruled the little girl had died due to “the unlawful act of the mother”, commenting he was “surprised” charges hadn’t been brought against her and that he would appeal to the CPS to “re-assess” their decision.

“I find the death of Keira-Mae Jones was due to the unlawful act of the mother,” said Mr Urpeth.

“I am satisfied that the finding of cause of death in this case on the balance of probability is unlawful killing.

“I am surprised the CPS did not authorise charges in this tragic case… I would ask this case be referred back to the CPS to reassess their decision.”

Giving evidence at the hearing, mother Amy Jones was quizzed about the two days leading up to Keira-Mae’s death and asked about why blood samples taken from her less than two hours after the incident returned evidence of cocaine use. Further, forensic toxicologist Dr Diane Garside gave evidence the drugs were most likely used on the day of the incident.

Senior coroner David Urpeth asked Miss Jones: “Did you take any cocaine?”

“No,” replied Miss Jones.

“Did anyone bring you any? Did your partner provide you with a urine sample in order to avoid a positive drug test?”

“No.”

"Do you think someone could look after a child while under the influence of cocaine?"

"Yes."

"Sorry - did you say yes, you can?"

"Yes. Cocaine makes you more alert."

"Are you sure about that?"

"I'm not saying it's right."

"And are you saying it's safe to look after a child under the influence of cocaine?"

"Yes, you can."

Keira-Mae Jones was born 5lb 5oz in the early hours of May 14, 2020 at Barnsley Hospital after being induced.

The inquest heard Keira-Mae was set to be subject to an interim care order, where a child is removed from their parents’ care and fostered.

However, because Miss Jones was on a prescription for opioid-based painkillers while expecting Keira-Mae, the little girl had to be kept in the hospital for up to five days to watch if she was suffering from withdrawal symptoms due to the drug.

A senior midwife who cared for Amy Jones, Joanne Posket, told the court Amy seemed positive and talkative on the day after Keira-Mae birth, but negative and irritable on the day of the incident after arguing with her partner about her 16 dogs potentially being taken from her.

This behaviour change was called “erratic” by several witness statements from staff on the ward. In his finding, Mr Urpeth said he believed this mood swing was caused by substance abuse. Miss Jones denied this.

At around 6pm on May 16, Miss Jones claims she took Keira-Mae to bed to feed her.

Her “next memory” was waking up at 8pm, and she found Keira-Mae face down on the bed.

Medical staff rushed to save Keira-Mae’s life, and were able to resuscitate the two-day-old infant.

Meanwhile, Miss Jones reportedly gathered her belongings in a carrier bag, wrote a note apologising to Keira-Mae that she was “better off without me”, and met up with Alex Jones in the car park of the hospital. Mr Jones convinced her to go back inside.

By this time, Keira-Mae was being prepared for transfer to the Jessop, where she would spend the rest of her short life on life support with “catastrophic” brain damage.

During this time, a blood sample taken from Amy Jones less than two hours after the incident was taken for lab testing, and showed byproducts of cocaine use. A urine sample was also taken.

In the inquest, South Yorkshire Police DS Julie Thorpe said the decision to arrest Amy and Alex Jones came eight hours after the incident after reviewing bodyworn footage of her demeanour during the incident.

“My immediate thought when I saw the footage was this female is clearly under the influence of substances and we need to locate her and arrest her,” said DS Thorpe.

Alex Jones was also arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice on May 16. During initial police enquiries, a urine sample pot from the hospital was found in his car.

“Why did he claim to have that?” said the coroner.

“He claimed he wanted it because he wanted to take it for screening at a sexual health clinic,” said the officer.

“On the day his baby nearly died?”

“On the day his baby was overlaid, yes sir. They did not think the infant would survive.”

“What did you think of that as an explanation?” said the coroner.

“Nonsense,” said the officer.

In subsequent police interviews, Miss Jones denied using cocaine in hospital. She believed she had fallen asleep and squashed her baby and she hadn’t taken any drugs.

The couple were bailed on May 20. Outside of further interviews, no action was taken.

In his ruling, Mr Urpeth said: “It’s the finding of the experienced officer Thorpe that the mother was "obviously intoxicated".

“I find as a fact there were material, dramatic changes in her behaviour on May 16 and these indicate intoxication. Therefore, taking both of these into account, I find on balance of probability the most likely time the cocaine was taken was in hospital on May 16.

“I find on balance of probability that Amy was not fit to care for a baby due to her drug intoxication. The unlawful act of the mother directly led to Keira’s death. That is someone who could and should have provided protection and care for Keira-Mae. It is a tragedy that she didn’t.

“Therefore I have to reach a conclusion and I am satisfied on balance of probability the appropriate conclusion to record in this case is unlawful killing.“

Miss Jones, who was present to give evidence, left before the ruling was complete.