Blackburn family's anguish over death of 16-month-old boy

First published in News

A FAMILY told of their anguish after a cloud of suspicion hung over them for almost two years following the death of a 16-month-old boy.

Rayhan Hassan died from a head injury as he was being looked after by his aunt and uncle at his home in Gorse Road, Blackburn, whilst his parents were at a wedding in Pakistan.

At an inquest into Rayhan’s death, coroner Michael Singleton expressed his sympathy over the length of time the family had to wait for the inquest to be concluded.

Speaking at yesterday’s hearing, he said: “As a parent and indeed as a grandparent, I cannot even begin to imagine the grief, the trauma and the pain. To lose a child is beyond all comprehension.

“To also have the anguish of a police investigation, and to have to wait this long for closure, you have my heartfelt sympathy.”

The hearing was told that Rayhan, who was awaiting an MRI scan for a ‘swollen head’ condition at the time, was asleep in an upstairs bedroom when his aunt, Shamas Faisal, heard him crying over the baby monitor.

She took him from his cot and passed him to her daughter Rafia, who was 14-years-old at the time. Rafia took Rayhan into another room and put him on a bed, and when she turned her back momentarily he fell onto the carpeted floor.

Giving evidence, Mrs Faisal said she knew he had fallen when she heard him crying. She said: “He was crying, very bad crying.”

She told the hearing that she rushed into the room, where she found Rayhan unresponsive.

She said: “His eyes were closed and he never responded to us. We were calling him ‘Rayhan, Rayhan’, and he never responded.”

The family called 999 and Rayhan was taken to hospital in Blackburn before being transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, where medical staff called police as they suspected his injuries were non-accidental.

Speaking after the hearing, Rayhan’s uncle Faisal Akbar, said: “I came home from hospital and, to my horror, there was a crime scene investigation van there.

“It was like there had been a big terrorist attack.”

Mr Akbar said that he was very concerned that people would think that he and his wife had somehow harmed Rayhan.

He said that police and social workers interviewed his children at school, and officers also asked his neighbours about his children’s welfare.

He said: “You’ve got your kid in hospital, and the community talking. They will think you must have done something.”

Mr Akbar said the family were told by police that there was a year-long waiting list for tests by some medical experts, which caused the investigation to drag on, and left the family unable to properly grieve.

He said: “We were never worried because we’d done nothing wrong, but to put a family through that is wrong.

“They did their job but the manner they did it in was ‘guilty until proven innocent’ and not the other way round. That’s how we felt as a family.”

The inquest heard that it was very rare for a child to suffer a fatal head injury from a low-level fall, but home office pathologist Dr Christopher Paul Johnson said after consulting experts, he was confident that Rayhan’s existing condition of a swollen head and brain would make it much more likely for him to suffer a fatal head injury from a minor trauma.

The inquest recorded a verdict of accidental death.

After the inquest, Detective Inspector Simon Upton from Blackburn CID said: “The sudden death of any child is tragic and very distressing for the family involved.

“We were called to the incident by hospital staff at Alder Hey who had concerns around how the child had come by his injuries and we are duty bound to investigate.

“Lancashire Constabulary carried out a full and thorough investigation into the death of Rayhan Hassan and our enquiries were carried out in a sensitive way.

“We worked closely with medical experts and passed our information to the coroner who returned the verdict of accident death. Throughout our enquiries, we liased closely with the family and kept them fully updated on the progress of our investigation.

“At this time, our thoughts remain with the family as they continue to grieve for the loss of their much loved family member.”

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