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Thursday 22 March 2018

Inquest over death of shipping tycoon's daughter 'strangled by blind cord in her cot'

David Wilcock and Rebecca Flood

THE two-year-old daughter of one of Britain's richest men died after becoming tangled in a blind cord in her bedroom, an inquest heard today.

Alexandra Lucy Hoegh died in her top-floor room at the family's four-storey luxury home in west London's Notting Hill last October.

The inquest heard the toddler was found by her nanny Melinda De La Cruz when she went to wake her from an afternoon nap while her mother Dana Hoegh chatted to a friend, Catherine Mathiesen, downstairs in the kitchen.

Alexandra, who was three weeks from her third birthday was given mouth to mouth in the street by her mother as they waited for an ambulance.

Westminster Coroner's Court heard how she and Ms Mathiesen were found by police crying hysterically in the street as paramedics fought to revive the youngster.

Mrs Hoegh told the inquest the Filipino nanny - who had trained in childcare in her native country but did not complete the course - had arrived late for work at 1.50pm. She took over from her mother Andrea, who cleaned and helped nanny for the Hoegh's, apologised to Mrs Hoegh and then went upstairs to get the toddler at around 2.10pm.

"A couple of minutes after that we heard a scream, then another scream," Mrs Hoegh told the inquest.

"We went to the door of the kitchen and met Melinda with Alexandra.

"She was blue. She was not breathing.

"I ran downstairs into the street. I asked my friend Catherine to call an ambulance and started mouth-to-mouth on her on the pavement."

She added that Alexandra's colour came back straight away from the CPS and she was a little sick but she did not respond further.

She was taken to St Mary's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 3.17pm.

Alexandra's father Morten Hoegh, 39, is the chairman of Hoegh LNG - a multi-billion pound oil and gas shipping company based in Norway.

He runs the business between London and Oslo and appears on the Sunday Times Rich List with an estimated fortune of €200m.

Mrs Hoegh said her daughter, the youngest of the couple's three children, had been her usual happy self and had been to her play group that morning.

The inquest heard Alexandra was "very adept" at climbing in and out of her cot, using a table next to it.

The cot was by the window, which had a roller blind fitted.

Mrs Hoegh added: "I insisted that day she have a nap because she had woken up at 3am."

Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest heard the beaded blind cord was within Alexandra's reach if she stood in the cot in the fourth-floor room.

Dr Wilcox said she would write to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asking it to talk to blind manufacturers about putting warnings on their products.

Giving a cause of death as asphyxiation caused by hanging, Dr Wilcox said Mrs Hoegh was "extraordinarily brave" to give evidence.

"Alexandra died as a result of an accidental suspension after unfortunately becoming tangled with a window blind cord next to her crib," she said.

"This is a tragic and appalling death and I cannot imagine how her family must feel.

"I will make inquiries with the HSE to find out whether such blinds already have warnings on them with the risk of becoming entangled with children, causing such deaths."

She added that if no previous coroner had called for such warnings to be in place, and they were not already added to blinds, she would ask the HSE to "encourage" manufacturers to do so.

Andrea De La Cruz told the inquest she had collected Alexandra from playgroup around noon. She fed her and, after the toddler spent some time with her mother, they put her in her cot shortly after 1pm.

She said she left the youngster "reading" a book and then went to do some washing, taking a baby monitor with her.

She said she could hear Alexandra chatting but when she went silent after a while, assumed she had gone to sleep.

She did not go to the bedroom again before her daughter Melinda took over and raised the alarm.

The inquest heard that Mrs Mathiesen and Mrs Hoegh were so distressed that it took the 999 operator two minutes to establish their address to send an ambulance.

The toddler's death followed a series of similar incidents which prompted The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents to advise parents to install cordless blinds in children's rooms, or keep cords out of reach.

In January 2012, two-year-old Arthur Winfield died after accidentally hanging himself with a window blind cord as he tried to see his friend out of a window.

In the same month, Joshua Wakeham, aged 22 months, died in similar circumstances after becoming tangled in a cord at his home in Newport, south Wales.

Melinda De La Cruz told the inquest that when she went to Alexandra's room she appeared to be "standing" in the cot.

Wiping away tears, she said: "She was in the corner by the window.

"I saw she was standing with the cord around her neck."

She said she "panicked", grabbing the lifeless child and running down the stairs to the girl's mother.

She described how Alexandra was able to get into the cot by climbing on to the bedside table.

But she had not been known to reach for the cord before.

Press Association

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