'How can you carry on lying?'

A 19-month-old toddler was subjected to 'chaotic' care from her mother who then murdered her, an inquest heard this week.

Thursday, 15th September 2016, 11:09 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th October 2016, 2:01 pm

Autumn Gooch was found facedown and unresponsive on her bed by her mum, Nikki, on the afternoon of April 11, 2015.

Miss Gooch, 29, was subsequently arrested on suspicion of murder and later charged with neglect but was never prosecuted.

Bedfordshire Police dropped the charges following a post-mortem which stated the cause of death was unascertained.


But at an inquest on Wednesday (September 14) Miss Gooch’s brother Darren Gooch, 31, accused her of smothering her own daughter.

He said: “(She was a) 19-month-old baby, what kind of fight can they put up?

“We would all fight if someone covered our mouths but a child can’t really see that is the case.”

He said: “You haven’t (told the truth). You can’t have done. In all the questions you have been asked today you have probably lied about 70 per cent of it.


“How can you carry on lying? It will eat you up in the remainder of your life, whether that is in prison or outside.”

Appearing at Amphill Coroners’ Court, Miss Gooch was slammed by the coroner Martin Oldham for “fabricating” her responses and being “unreliable”.

In front of an astonished courtroom she denied that she ever needed help and blamed most of the problems on her former partner Craig McDonald, who had a drink problem.

She said: “Craig living there (with them) did not help Autumn because there were so many arguments going on and Craig was drinking. It was affecting Autumn.”

The court heard that the youngster was discovered in a state of rigor mortis, several hours after she died at the family home in Maulden.

This indicated she died a considerable period before Miss Gooch claims.

Paramedics called to the scene did not attempt to resuscitate Autumn because it was clear she was dead.

First on the scene was paramedic Kim Taylor who found Autumn lying on the bed in a wet nappy with vomit on her face, face down, next to a bottle of congealed milk.

Mrs Taylor said mother-of-two Miss Gooch kept saying “You can’t do anything, because she has passed away”.

Miss Gooch told the court that on the day she had gone in and checked Autumn around 7am before bathing, feeding and changing her nappy.

This was despite her nappy indicating she had had four bowel movements in it and she appeared to have been unwashed from the previous day.

She had also been recorded in a video on her grandmother’s phone wearing the same pink trousers which she died in. Miss Gooch said she died wearing red trousers.

Miss Gooch said that despite sleeping through the night Autumn was tired and grumpy by 9.30am and she put her back to bed.

She claimed to have checked her twice within an hour before finding her daughter dead at 2pm.

Contrary to social workers’ claims that she never cleaned the house Miss Gooch claimed she spent the time in between tidying her house.

Describing the moment she found her daughter, she said: “She was hanging over the bed face down. I saw her face was blue on the right hand side.

“I tried to breath up her nose and in her mouth for about five minutes and then I knew she had gone.”

She rang her mother Brenda Gooch who told her to ring 999. Paramedics later arrived but were unable to save her.

Autumn’s father Craig Macdonald told the inquest: “She made a comment to me that she looked like she’d gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.”

The court also heard that concerns were raised about Autumn’s welfare after Miss Gooch was found drunk in the care of her older son in 2013.

He was later taken into care and now lives with his father.

At the time she was living in with her mother and father Mr McDonald. The pair would both regularly get drunk at a nearby pub, often leaving Autumn in a pushchair for considerable periods.

Senior family support worker Helen McCarey worked with the family from November 2014 until Autumn’s death.

She said: “Nikki never used to do anything. Craig used to be the mother that would tidy up.

“The amount of times I would have turned up and Nikki would be sitting watching TV with her phone with her drink and crisps to the side.

“(There was) no motivation to do anything.”

She said that Miss Gooch has an “unnatural” relationship with her child and she had to teach her how to play with her.

The constant support from the council and the pair’s families didn’t improve the situation.

Central Bedfordshire Council’s children’s services then applied to have Autumn placed into foster care on March 20, 2015.

A Luton Family Court where a judge rejected their pleas and ordered that Autumn’s main carer, Mr McDonald, leave the family house because of concerns over his drinking.

After he left Miss Gooch signed a document agreeing to daily visits from social services and her family.

But instead of improving, Autumn’s care deteriorated and at the time of her death the council was appealing against the judge’s ruling because Gooch was not honouring her side of the agreement.

This came after support workers raised issues about alcohol and cannabis use and the state of the house. Something she denied.

During visits to the house they would often find up to 10 bottles in Autumn’s bed and several soiled nappies lying about.

There had also previously raised concerns about a large dog Miss Gooch bought after it growled at Autumn. This had been removed by the time of the first court case.

Miss Gooch: “She (the dog) was lovely and stuff like that but she did get narky when the kids were playing with her but they didn’t know any different, especially Autumn.”

Dr Nathaniel Cary told the hearing that the infant’s cause of death was unknown despite a thorough post-mortem examination.

There were no signs of injury, malnutrition or dehydration on Autumn’s body.

Recording and open verdict coroner Oldham said: “On April 11 she was found dead in her bedroom where she spent a lot of time.

“Despite the chaotic care from her mother I am unable to discuss anything about this and therefore it is appropriate to record an open verdict.”