Curtain rope strangles baby

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2009, 12:00am

An 18-month-old British boy was found dead in his cot aboard his father's yacht yesterday with a curtain rope wrapped around his neck.

The toddler, identified only by his surname, Roche, had been sleeping in a cabin on the lower deck of the yacht where the family lives.

Police said the father was at work and the mother had left the boat, berthed at the floating jetty outside the Discovery Bay Marina Club, before midday.

The family's 32-year-old maid, who had been working on the upper deck, went to check on the baby at about 1.30pm, wondering why he had not awoken.

'When she opened the cabin door to check, the baby was found unconscious in his cot with a curtain rope around his neck,' a police investigator said.

The toddler was taken to Princess Margaret Hospital but was declared dead before arrival.

Police said initial investigation found nothing suspicious and no one was arrested. An autopsy will be carried out today.

Detectives from Lantau North police station are investigating.

The tragedy brought a call for parents and childminders to be aware of the risk of leaving children unattended.

Stressing that such accidents were prevalent in the city, Against Child Abuse director Priscilla Lui Tsang Sun-kai said leaving children unattended for even a few minutes could cause serious injury or death.

'We should not leave our children unattended for any period,' she said. 'Childminders and parents should not underestimate the potential risk that sometimes is life-threatening.'

Yesterday, Mrs Lui called for a children's commission to be set up to address concerns on government policies that relate to children and a new law to punish childminders and parents who fail to provide proper care to their children.

She also urged the government to put more resources into improving childcare services and support.

She feared that the economic downturn could lead to more domestic accidents involving children as parents had no money to send their children to childcare centres and had no time to take good care of them.

According to the latest figures from the Social Welfare Department, the number of cases of child neglect dropped to 78 last year from 114 in 2007. The number of newly reported child abuse cases also dropped to 882 last year from 944 in 2007.