Sunday 15 December 2019

Toddler died after drinking methadone from beaker, court told

Emma Sword

A TODDLER died after drinking methadone from a child's beaker at his parents home, a court has heard.

Riley Pettipierre, aged two, died in hospital after drinking the drug from a beaker left on some bedroom drawers at his home in Belper, Derbyshire last year.

His parents Sally Dent and Shaun Binfield have now gone on trial at Nottingham Crown charged with their son's manslaughter. They are also charged with cruelty to a person under the age of 16 as it is alleged they failed to keep methadone and other drugs out of the reach of the child.

They both deny all the charges.

Opening her case for the prosecution, Yvonne Coen QC told a jury of seven men and five women that Dent, who repeatedly dabbed her eyes with a tissue in the dock, was struggling to get over a heroin habit.

Dent has a history of drug use going back many years and is being prescribed methadone to try to rid her of the habit, Ms Coen told the court.

A child's beaker with methadone was left on a set of drawers in his parents bedroom where he also slept, so it would be "within easy reach" of his mother, Ms Coen alleged.

Dent awoke to find Riley unconscious in bed next to her and called 999 on March 13 last year.

She described her son to police as "a gorgeous little boy" and a "loveable rogue who got up to the usual mischief", the court heard.

"Not only would (the beaker) have attracted him to it like a little bee to a honeypot but it was also within easy reach of him," she said.

It was "grave negligence" by his parents to leave the dangerous drug in a beaker, which the toddler would have thought was juice, the prosecutor told the court.

Paramedics arrived to find Riley lifeless. His heart had stopped beating and his lips were blue, Ms Coen told the court.

The toddler was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after arriving.

Friends and family of the couple wept in the dock as Ms Coen told the jury that post-mortem tests showed that Riley had enough methadone in his blood, stomach and urine to prove fatal.

He is believed to have consumed between 10ml and 20ml of methadone, the court heard.

The couple originally told officers that Riley must have climbed on top of a wardrobe in the bedroom where the methadone was usually stored in a locked wooden box, Ms Coen told the court.

She claims that Binfield, who was watching television in the other room on the morning of the incident, let Riley go back into the bedroom unsupervised, knowing that methadone was within his reach and knowing that Dent was sleeping off drugs she had taken the night before.

The trial was adjourned till tomorrow and the pair remain on bail.

PA Media

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