31 Oct 2010

Catholic mother killed newborn baby from 'shame' after giving birth alone

The Telegraph - UK June 18, 2009

A Catholic mother, who did not know she was pregnant, killed her newly born son within moments of giving birth alone, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Tevenan, 30, who later died from severe blood loss, gave birth in November 2008 in the downstairs lavatory of the home she shared with her parents in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Miss Tevenan, who was an only child with a strict Catholic upbringing, is believed to have been unaware of the pregnancy until she gave birth.

The inquest at Leamington Town Hall, Warwickshire, heard that her son was born alive and would have taken a few breaths before he died from having tissue stuffed down his throat.

The child who has now been named Nicholas Patrick Tevenan, weighed 6lb 13oz and was born at around 37 weeks.

In a statement read out by the coroner, paediatric pathologist Dr James Lucas said: "His lungs were expanded, he would have only taken a few breaths before death occurred."

He described how a piece of tissue paper was found at the back of the throat.

"This constrained the entrance to the voice box, deliberately obstructing the upper airway, causing asphyxia which caused rapid death."

The inquest heard that Elizabeth had been rushed to hospital after being found by her mother covered in blood, and showed signs of child birth upon examination.

Police then returned to the four-bedroom property to search for an infant where they found a baby concealed under a pile of towels next to the toilet.

PC Judith Wolsey from Warwickshire Police, told the inquest that she had entered the house and followed a trail of blood through the house to the downstairs toilet before finding the baby.

She said: "I felt physically shocked and "I remember saying 'there's a baby' - I couldn't believe what I'd seen."

The officer told the inquest how they picked the baby up and tried to resuscitate him until the ambulance arrived.

Elizabeth's parents did not attend the hearing, but the coroner read out a statement from her 58-year-old mother Bridget Tevenan.

In it Elizabeth was described as a "bubbly, happy" girl who loved reading novels, listening to Classic FM and watching Eastenders and Casualty.

Elizabeth was found by her mother in the bathroom on the morning of November 13 after she became concerned about her.

"She was in the downstairs toilet, I called to her through the door, 'Are you ok', and she said 'Yes I'll be out in 15 to 20 minutes'.

Shortly after Mrs Tevenan said when she opened the door she saw her daughter sitting on the toilet with blood all over her legs, at which point she rang the ambulance.

"I said 'Oh my God you've haemorrhaged' - she was white like snow and disorientated," she added.

The inquest also heard that her mother tried to clean the blood from her legs because she wanted her to have "dignity" as she knew there would be men in the house.

Her mother said her family were Catholic and Elizabeth was "brought up very strict".

She said she would have "loved" a grandchild and although she would have "hit the ceiling", if she knew she was pregnant, she would eventually have "calmed down".

The inquest was also told that Elizabeth's mother knew she had a boyfriend, but she had never met him.

The father was identified as Noel Bannister, after DNA tests were carried out. He attended the hearing but refused to comment afterwards.

Coroner Sean McGovern said: "I am entirely satisfied she was unaware of her pregnancy. It is impossible to know when she became aware she was giving birth.

"If she'd been aware her water broke, it's likely to me that early medical attention could have prevented her death.

"My verdict is that she died as a result of natural causes.

"I am satisfied the child was born alive but someone deliberately pushed tissue paper into the throat causing asphyxia leading to the death of the person."

The coroner said they could have been "acting in a condition of complete panic" and recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

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