Open verdict for six-month-old baby’s death at nanny’s home, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Open verdict for six-month-old baby’s death at nanny’s home

There is no definitive cause of death for a six-month-old boy who was found face down in a flat while under the care of his nanny, a coroner’s court has ruled.

Delivering an open verdict for the case of Yong Jing Yu on April 9 after a year-long inquiry, State Coroner Adam Nakhoda added there was no foul play involved.

“Losing a child is always a devastating event, perhaps more so when the child is a very young infant with no record of serious medical issues, as in the case with Jing Yu,” said the coroner as the infant’s parents, Mr Yong Chen Seng and Madam Toh Jinq Lay, listened with the help of a Mandarin interpreter.

The infant had been under the care of the nanny since he was around three months old. The nanny’s full name was not stated in court proceedings.

On Dec 28, 2021, the day of Jing Yu’s death, the nanny fed him milk and put him to bed in a cot around 3pm, investigation officer (IO) Russel Tong said on the first day of the coroner’s inquiry on March 27, 2023.

When the nanny found him lying face down around 6.20pm and saw his face had turned blue, she called for an ambulance.

IO Tong said the Singapore Civil Defence Force gave the nanny instructions to try to resuscitate the baby.

Paramedics took over resuscitation efforts when they arrived, and the baby was taken to Sengkang General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

There were three possible causes behind Jing Yu’s death, but none of them was conclusive.

Dr Audrey Yeo, a forensic pathologist from the Health Sciences Authority, testified on the first day of the inquiry that the first possible cause was positional asphyxia, as the baby was found face down.

State Coroner Nakhoda said the nanny had placed Jing Yu facing up on the mattress around 3pm. She then left her Sengkang flat to do other chores, and only returned some time after 6pm.

IO Tong said on the first day of the inquiry that the nanny’s 13-year-old son was the only person at home at the time, “so she assumed her son would be the one taking care” of the baby.

The court heard there was no evidence her son had checked on Jing Yu, or the two other babies the nanny was babysitting at the time, while she was out.

There were no signs of pallor around Jing Yu’s nose and mouth, which could have pointed towards positional asphyxia.

Usually, if a person has undergone resuscitation, signs of pallor might not be present any more, said State Coroner Nakhoda. Hence, this cause of death was also not definitive.

The coroner also noted there seemed to be some gaps between the mattress and the netted walls of the cot.

Though there is no conclusive evidence of an unsafe sleeping position, the coroner said parents and carers should ensure a safe sleeping area for infants, including ensuring there are no gaps between the mattress and cot.

In highlighting the second possible cause, Dr Yeo said she found some acute inflammation in Jing Yu’s lungs.

But as the inflammation was not extensive enough to point to pneumonia, this finding was insufficient to be labelled as the final cause of death.

The third possible reason is a gene mutation. During the autopsy, Dr Yeo found a gene mutation, which affects the transportation of ions to the heart.

This mutation is known to cause fatal irregular heartbeats. However, the forensic pathologist was also unable to ascertain if this caused Jing Yu’s death.

In the course of the inquiry, it was revealed that two days before the baby’s death, the nanny fed him 1ml of the medicinal syrup Zenmolin without his parents’ consent.

This was because she observed he was “coughing badly” and she “kept hearing wheezing sounds”, said State Coroner Nakhoda.

The baby’s toxicology report did not show the medicine’s active ingredient, hence it was unlikely that it had a role in his demise.

But the coroner emphasised that nannies should not give medication to infants without seeking express consent from their parents.

Based on the evidence, State Coroner Nakhoda said he was “constrained in this case to return an open verdict”.

Speaking to The Straits Times after the verdict, Jing Yu’s parents expressed disappointment at the outcome.

“We thought that out of the three possible causes, one would be chosen as the most likely cause,” said Madam Toh in Mandarin.

Mr Yong added that they would be consulting lawyers before deciding whether to take any further legal action.