Mum tells of finding dead son in a dryer
Published 13/04/2011 | 05:00
A mother wept yesterday as she told an inquest how her four-year-old son died in a tumble dryer after he set the timer himself and the door slammed shut.
Anne Gibson discovered Sonny inside the machine at the family home in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England, on July 26 last year.
She found the toddler when she came home after spending the night at a friend's house, because she had had a few too many drinks.
She broke down in tears as she described her frantic search for her "very independent" child in the morning.
He had been left in the care of teenage family members and was put to bed the night before, the inquest at Derby Coroner's Court heard.
Delivering a verdict of accidental death, Deputy Coroner Louise Pinder said: "Sonny was a very lively little boy and could, on occasion, be quite mischievous.
"He loved to hide, and hide and seek was a game he was fond of. He had demonstrated an attraction to the tumble dryer in the past."
Mrs Gibson said she rang the police after 30 minutes of searching.
She said: "I don't know what made me look in the washing machine, and then I opened the tumble dryer door and he was there."
She said Sonny learned how to operate the tumble dryer from watching other family members and liked to put his favourite blanket in there to warm it up.
Mrs Gibson said she thought the door could have either bounced shut as he got in or one of the two dogs knocked it shut.
The coroner agreed, but said it was impossible to know why Sonny had climbed into the Proline TDV60.
Ms Pinder said she was satisfied with the measures the Gibson family took to ensure Sonny's safety, but that the care arrangements were "traditional but, I think, fairly haphazard".
The court also heard from Home Office pathologist Professor Guy Rutty, who said a post-mortem revealed Sonny died from injuries he suffered "as a consequence of being inside an active tumble dryer".
He told the inquest Sonny had suffered a blunt head trauma, he had inhaled hot gases and had various burns to his body.
Anthony Coombs, a scenes of crime officer, said tests to establish if the dryer could have been switched on from the inside found "five out of six times" the door bounced back on its hinge to swing shut.
PC Wendy Foxton, who was at the house when Mrs Gibson found Sonny, fought back tears as she told the inquest about the search.
She said the mother could not remember what her son was wearing, so went over to the washing machine to try to figure out what was missing.
PC Foxton told the inquest: "It was at this point that she shouted that she could see him in the dryer.
"We both went over and I could see . . . you could not see what it was, it was just something against the door."
Mrs Gibson, a care assistant, was arrested on suspicion of child neglect not long after Sonny's death, but the charges were later dropped.
The coroner said she had heard that many tumble dryers had improved safety designs and because Sonny's death was so rare she would not be making any formal recommendations.