Open verdict in vicarage baby death case

Rev James Percival

Rev James Percival

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A coroner has recorded an open verdict at the inquest into the death of a baby boy born in the bathroom of a vicarage.

Vicar’s daughter Ruth Percival, 30, gave birth to Jonathan in the downstairs toilet at her parents’ home in Freckleton, on November 25 2014.

Ms Percival, who has some special educational needs, had tried to have an abortion but was too far gone and did not tell her father, James Percival – at the time the vicar of Holy Trinity CE Church in the village – or her mother, Susan, that she was pregnant.

The “family dynamic” in the house was “particularly unusual”, the hearing at Blackpool Town Hall was told.

Mr Percival, 66, told the inquest that he gave mouth-to-mouth to try to revive the baby, but he thought the child was stillborn. No ambulance was called, and he took his daughter for a GP appointment, leaving the body of the child at the vicarage.

It was only later that an ambulance was called and the child was pronounced dead by paramedics. Medical evidence showed the baby was alive at the time he was born.

Yesterday Alan Wilson, Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde, ruled out any accidental cause of death or natural causes and said the death was not suspicious.

He said the medical cause of death was unascertained, or simply not known.

But he said he could not rely on the evidence of Mr Percival, who is no longer a vicar, or his daughter. He said: “I feel unable to place any significant point on the evidence of either Ruth or James Percival.

“There have been various inconsistencies in relation to their accounts which have not been resolved in the course of this investigation.”