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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 March 2006, 15:59 GMT
Neglect ruling in girl pond death
Abigail Rae
The jury heard three days of evidence about Abigail's death
The death of a toddler who fell into a pond after wandering away from her Warwickshire playgroup was an accident resulting from neglect, a jury ruled.

Two-year-old Abigail Rae disappeared from the Ready Teddy Go nursery in Lower Brailes, near Shipston-on-Stour.

She was found an hour later when her mother Victoria pulled her from the weed-covered pond.

Her parents are considering legal action against the nursery, which closed on the day of the tragedy.

Justin Rae, 39, said he and his wife had been "devastated" by a Crown Prosecution Service decision not to bring corporate manslaughter charges against the owners of the nursery following three years of investigation.

The art director said: "I think it sets a dangerous precedence if the law isn't there to protect children at pre-school, that's quite scary isn't it?"

'Guilty of neglect'

Mr and Mrs Rae, who also have an 18-month-old son Toby, moved from Lower Brailes 18 months after their daughter's death, to Southend Bradfield, Berkshire.

Mrs Rae said the inquest had been traumatic but nothing compared to the day when she lost her daughter.

She said: "If anything we just need to get out now the issues surrounding pre schools and the way that they're run".

Speaking after the case Rebecca Hearsey, the solicitor for Abby's parents, said: "It is quite clear from the verdict that the nursery were guilty of neglect."

Justin and Victoria Rae (Rui Vieira/PA)
Justin and Victoria Rae have left Warwickshire since the tragedy

She added: "I think what we have seen is a failure of systems throughout the nursery with practices and procedures.

"Mr and Mrs Rae are very pleased with the verdict. They have spent three years waiting for the inquest to take place.

"It now gives them the opportunity to understand what happened on the day."

After being found in the pond Abigail was resuscitated and taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital by air ambulance, but later pronounced dead.

The jury of five men and four women was told how Abigail, who had started at the nursery 10 days earlier, is believed to have got out through a back gate which staff believed had been bolted shut.

The door leading into the courtyard, near the gate, was left open for about 10 minutes as children and staff wheeled toys to a shed to be stored, on 28 November 2002.

Abduction fear

During the three-day hearing at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall, the court heard how a bricklayer had passed a toddler, believed to be Abigail, walking alone near the nursery.

But he did not stop to help in case he was suspected of abducting her.

The nursery never re-opened after the tragedy.

It had received a good Ofsted report in the summer of 2002 and Mrs Rae said she had only heard good reports about it when she was considering whether to send Abigail there.

After the verdict the coroner Michael Coker told Mr and Mrs Rae: "I find it very difficult to offer you some consolation relating to the death of your little daughter.

"I doubt if there is anybody who does not have the deepest sympathy for you."




BBC NEWS:VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the report on Abigail Rae's inquest



SEE ALSO:
Dying daughter pulled from pond
21 Mar 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Parents of dead toddler grieve
29 Nov 02 |  England


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