Woman who hid body of baby in shoebox loses bid for anonymity

A WOMAN who hid the body of her newborn baby in a shoebox under her bed after concealing the pregnancy from her family has failed to persuade High Court judges her identity should be kept from the public.

General view of Airdale General Hospital where the baby's body was taken. Picture: rossparry.co.uk / Chris Fairweather

Judges at the Court of Appeal, including the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas, ruled that a coroner in Bradford was correct to deny anonymity to the woman and her family following the baby’s death in 2013.

The woman, described in court papers as ‘T’ and who was 19 when her daughter was born, initially told police the child had been the product 
of rape by two men in an alleyway, before later retracting the claim.

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The baby was born on February 27 and the woman placed it in a shoebox under her bed without checking whether it was alive or its sex.

General view of Airdale General Hospital where the baby's body was taken.

Her mother discovered the baby’s body on March 2 after noticing a bad smell in the bedroom and put it in the boot of her car. They took the body in a shoebox to A&E at Airedale General Hospital near Keighley three days later.

Prosecutors decided not to bring criminal charges because of the difficulty establishing whether the baby was alive when it was born.

In her application to the High Court, ‘T’ claimed she risked being forcibly taken to Pakistan and “married off” if the community in her home town of Keighley found out about the liaison.

An inquest was opened at Bradford Coroner’s Court on August 2014. Later that year, T’s solicitors said they would be applying for an anonymity order for her, a request that was rejected in a written judgement by a coroner in September 2015.

General view of Airdale General Hospital where the baby's body was taken.

According to the Court of Appeal judgement, a statement from T claimed she had since moved away from Keighley to another town, as she was scared “a member of my family would find out and not knowing if they would do something to harm me”.

She said: “I have a lot of immediate family who live in Keighley and they are not nice people. If they were to find out, they would most definitely harm me or ensure I go to Pakistan to get married because in their view I will have brought shame on the family.”

She also claimed she had received abusive text messages threatening to kill her. The High Court judges wrote in their ruling: “The claimant has never produced any corroborating evidence of the abusive text messages and has not identified the senders.”

T’s aunt said in a statement that the story had not been picked up by the Asian Press but feared the community would want to ensure her niece was “taught a lesson”.

Before the Court of Appeal judgement, T’s solicitors argued that the coroner did not have the power to open an inquest into a child’s death unless he was able to say that the child was probably born alive, rather than stillborn. But this argument was rejected by judges.

They also rejected the claim for anonymity for the baby’s mother and her family.

The judgment concluded: “The prospect of the claimant suffering actual harm was highly speculative, there was no firm basis for saying that she might face retaliatory action in the future.”

It added: “The facts of this particular case give rise to a significant public interest.”

The judgment dismissing T’s application was published on April 28. An anonymity order remains in place but will lapse on May 12 unless she appeals to the Supreme Court.