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Baby Pearl was mother’s third baby death probe

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A cot was seen taken to the area where baby Pearl was discovered in Heywood

The mother of a baby girl whose body was found in woodland had faced police probes over the deaths of two of her other children, an inquest has heard.

The baby, named Pearl by detectives, was discovered in Bluebell Woods in Heywood, Greater Manchester, in April.

Four of Leah Howarth’s children, including Pearl, were deceased with three investigated but no further action taken, Rochdale Coroner’s Court heard.

A coroner recorded a narrative verdict.

‘Blood all over’

Baby Pearl’s parents Shane Hutchinson, 48, and Ms Howarth were arrested in July on suspicion of murder, concealing a birth and preventing a lawful burial but later released with no further action.

It emerged during the hearing there was an investigation into the sudden and unexpected death of a child in 2001 and the body of a newborn baby boy found in a plastic bag in the bathroom of Ms Howarth’s then home in Fleetwood, Lancashire, in 2015.

Giving evidence at Pearl’s inquest, Ms Howarth, 33, told the court she thought she had a miscarriage on 25 December 2017 in the caravan in Heywood she shared with her then boyfriend Mr Hutchinson.

She told the coroner she was “in and out of consciousness” but recalled bleeding and did not believe she had had a baby.

She said she had no idea how Pearl came to be at Bluebell Woods four months later.

Mr Hutchinson said when he returned home to the caravan Ms Howarth had “blood all over” telling him she had had a miscarriage.

He said he helped clean up the blood and flushed what he now knew to be the placenta down the toilet.

‘Cause unascertained’

When asked by the coroner how his daughter ended up in Bluebell Woods he replied: “Because she put her there.

“No-one else knew about her daughter.”

Pathologist Dr Charles Wilson told the inquest he did not believe Pearl’s body had been at the woodland for long because decomposition would have been greater.

The medical cause of death was unascertained.

Recording a narrative verdict, Manchester North senior coroner Joanne Kearsley concluded Pearl was delivered on 25 December 2017 at between 32 and 40 weeks in a viable pregnancy but because of decomposition it was not possible to know whether she was born alive or stillborn.

She added her delivery was concealed and she was stored in an unknown place until or around 4 April.



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