Bed designer denies manslaughter over baby's choke death

A baby who tried to wriggle out of his cot and was "starved of oxygen" when his head became stuck died due to a bed designer's gross negligence, a court has heard.

Jurors at Leeds Crown Court heard how Oscar Abbey, from York, was found by his parents and died of positional asphyxia on 3 November 2016.

The owner of the company that sold the bed, Craig Williams, is on trial accused of gross negligence manslaughter. He denies the charge.

John Elvidge QC, prosecuting, said: "During the course of the night, he [Oscar] wriggled his body through the holes at the front of his cot bed.

"His head was too big to fit through. In effect, he choked to death. He was starved of oxygen."

He said Oscar had died because the £655 bunk bed, which has a gated cot below, "was designed and constructed without any care or thought for the safety of the child who was sleeping in it".

"Oscar died, say the prosecution, because of the defendant's gross negligence," added Mr Elvidge.

He said Williams was the designer and "controlling mind" of the Sheffield-based Playtime Beds Ltd, which had two other employees.

The bespoke bed included a bed for Oscar's two-year-old brother Maxwell, the court heard.

Mr Elvidge told the court that Oscar's mother Shannon Abbey, 23, specifically asked Williams what age the lower bed was suitable for.

The prosecution lawyer said Williams had replied: "Any age."

He said the infant had been using the bed for less than a week when he died.

In a statement read to the court, Oscar's father Charlie Abbey, 24, described how he found his son trapped face-down in the front of the cot.

"I instantly realised he'd gone," he said. "It looked like he's tried to crawl out backwards but his head was stuck."

In Mrs Abbey's statement, she said she had woken up to her husband's screams.

"I heard Charlie shouting and screaming, 'he's not breathing'," she said. "I ran to the landing and Charlie was holding Oscar in both arms."

She said she had ordered the bed, which features a slide, after reading positive reviews and being assured by Williams that the cot was suitable for infants aged six or seven months.

"At no point was I advised it was not suitable," she said.

Mr Elvidge said that in March 2016, months before Oscar's death, another customer had contacted the firm and complained that a product she bought did not comply with the correct standards.

He told jurors that Williams had responded by saying "the bed is above safety standards" and "I have been in touch with trading standards and they are happy with my products".

However, Mr Elvidge told the court that trading standards had no record of it.

He said Williams continued to make beds and did not alter his designs even after the baby's death. The firm has made a total of about 450 beds over three years.

"Maybe the only reasonable inference to be drawn is that he didn't care at all about the fate of those using his beds," the prosecutor said.

He said customers were sent an email which said there had been a "slight issue" and that the business "had to close for a couple of weeks".

Jurors were told a new company was set up, which purported to be run by one of his employees - Joseph Bruce - but it was still being run by Williams.

The court was told that Bruce, 30, of Kimberworth Park Road, Rotherham, had admitted fraud.

Williams, of Park View Road, Kimberworth, Rotherham, denies manslaughter and fraud.

The trial continues.