Eden Grace Dunlop was born on December 10, 2019, and was found dead after sleeping beside her mother Lauren Dunlop on the morning of March 10, 2020, in her home in Falmouth House, in Howe Road, Gosport.
The unexplained death sparked a police investigation that saw Lauren arrested on suspicion of neglect, separating the grieving mother from her child on the night of her death.
After a medical examination uncovered a fracture to the four-month-old’s skull several weeks later, Lauren was arrested again on suspicion of murder, while her other daughter, four, was placed in the care of her grandparents by social services.
The tragedy sparked a nightmare investigation that took 18 months for police to declare that a prosecution would not be pursued, and now the young mother has been exonerated by an inquest held at Portsmouth Coroners’ Court today.
Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp has said a cause of death cannot be ascertained, with expert medical testimony unable to make a connection between Eden’s death and the skull fracture, which is believed to have occurred between five and 14 days prior.
Lauren said she had felt ‘dehumanised’ by the investigations but thanked the court for its sensitive handling of the tragedy and for allowing her to express her harrowing experience.
She said: ‘I have been blaming myself for a long time. Throughout this whole ordeal I have felt really dehumanised.
‘I am not a horrible person.’
After travelling with paramedics and Eden to Queen Alexandra Hospital on the morning of the death, Lauren said she was quickly separated from her child, as police wanted to test the young mother for drugs after questioning her on her use of cannabis.
Regarding the night of the tragedy, Lauren added: ‘I should have been given more time with my daughter. I was given less than two minutes with her.’
Addressing the court via a video link, Lauren’s father John called the police’s treatment of Lauren ‘disgusting’.
He said: ‘I think it was quiet inhuman of them. I have carried that anger for two year and a half years and I’m trying to get answers.’
Attending the court, Detective Constable Luke Donovan explained the reason behind the protracted investigation and advised the family to contact Hampshire Constabulary directly with their concerns.
He said: ‘The investigation took a long time predominantly due to waiting for the experts.
‘It took the best pat of a year to 18 months to finalise our reports.’
No other signs of injury were found on baby Eden, who was described as a happy and healthy by family members and medical staff at Bridgemary Medical Centre ,which held regular check-ups with the infant.
Ms Rhodes-Kemp said: ‘Despite exhaustive investigations there was no natural or unnatural process identified that could explain baby Eden’s death. I doesn’t really help mum or grandparents in that we don’t know...but at least it exonerates mum.
Addressing the family, she added: ‘She was a lovely little baby. I hope this gives you a little bit of closure.’