This post is not about Policing
This post is not about the governments latest policy decision
This post is not about me…or you
This post is about Abigail
At about quarter to five the radio breathed…that unmistakable audible intake of breath from the radio operator that always comes before a job.
I was tired – very tired. I had completely failed to sleep after the previous night and had pulled into a side road to watch the traffic for a bit. To be honest I was probably starting to drift off – we have all been there – awake enough to hear the radio, but offline enough to recharge the batteries for a few minutes.
The call was to my Sgt – asking him to make himself available for a phone call. This was always an ominous sign – they never phone him to tell him about a nice job. I felt an immediate reaction in my chest when five minutes later my job mobile rang. He passed me the details and we set off to an address – wide awake now and feeling sick in anticipation.
We had been asked to meet a paramedic at the end of the road and follow him on foot to the address. The walk was a silent one, despite the fact that we had both known the man ahead of us for years. Words were pointless, their absence protecting us from the reality of the situation for a few moments longer.
After a short walk we were in the address and were ushered upstairs. The silence still prevailed – although now it was deafening.
On the bed in front of us was a mother and her child. She cradled it in her arms as her husband walked over to greet us. ‘Thanks for coming’ he said – as if we had popped over for coffee and a chat. ‘Sorry to have to drag you out at this time in the morning’
I reassured him that he didn’t need to apologise – resisting the urge to take his lead and enter into casual small talk. I knew he was in shock and that this was nothing more than a coping mechanism.
‘We have to see her’ I said, choosing the direct approach.
This is something that I have regularly done in such situations – I believe it is sometimes easier for everyone just to get to the point rather than risk skirting around it for an unlimited period of time.
‘I know’ he said and looked to his wife for a reaction. She clasped her baby tighter to her chest. The numbness gave way to a tear, then a sob, then a voice –
‘Darling…’ he said.
‘NO!’ she screamed. The emotion suddenly released. ‘No No No No No NO NO!’
We stood and we waited. Silent. Unwanted intruders in a moment of horrific intimacy.
After what seemed like hours, but was in truth only a few minutes, her arms slowly relaxed and she released the child to her husband. He walked across the room and placed her in her gently in her crib before silently walking back to his sobbing wife, now collapsed on the bed.
I checked the tiny body, still disturbingly warm, with the paramedic. He quietly gave us his assessment of what had happened. It appears that after a string of restless nights, mum had decided to move Abigail into her bed to make it easier to feed her. Her husband had been sleeping in the spare room to make sure that there was plenty of space. Tragically, during one of the early morning feeds, mum had been overcome with tiredness and fallen asleep. The slight movement of her body relaxing had been enough for her breast tissue to obstruct the baby’s nose as it fed. Silently suffocating her child as she dozed.
She may have only nodded off for about ten minutes, but by the time she came around it was too late. Her world was destroyed and her future changed incomprehensibly.
I walked downstairs to meet the Sgt and tell him what I knew. We were soon joined by the husband who was back into talkative denial. ‘Can I get you a cup of tea or a sandwich? Although the bread isn’t too fresh’ he said.
We politely declined before moving outside. Decisions were made bedding was seized and arrangements were put in place for messages to be passed to nearby family members. Eventually it was time for Abigail to leave home for the last time.
‘Do you want her car seat?’ said dad.
A lifetime seemed to pass before he realised what he had said and was immediately hit with another massive dose of reality. On some level I was pleased to be able to leave at that point – yet on some level I wanted to stay. I wanted to make things right again…but that was never going to be possible.
When I went to work that night, all was well in my world. When I went to work that night, all was well in hers too.
By the time I came home from work the next morning – everything had changed.
I kept thinking about that little doze that had crept up on me in the car. The same little doze that crept up on Abigail’s mum. I actually felt a little guilty that it had been so harmless to me, but so devastating elsewhere.
Abigail was loved by everyone in her family, by her parents, her two brothers and countless others who knew her. It is truly cruel that one decision, with absolutely no malicious intent, could have had such tragic circumstances.
Abigail had no say in her fate – she was helpless to fight it. A true innocent who will never be forgotten.