Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Monday, 23 February 2009

Vicar 'tried to save girl's life'

A vicar has told how she tried to save the life of a three-year-old girl, who died at the family home just six months after the death of her baby brother.

The opening of an inquest in Hastings, East Sussex, heard how Lucy Dunford died from asphyxia after being found unconscious in Camber in February 2004.

Reverend Lucy Murdoch said she was called to the house by Lucy's mother.

Coroner Alan Craze said Lesley Dunford was initially arrested on suspicion of her murder, but was not charged.

Ms Dunford's son, Harley, died from an infection on 27 August 2003, at the age of seven months. No inquest was held as he died from natural causes.

Deep cut

Mrs Murdoch told the inquest that she had got to know the family when she offered support following his death, and on the day of Lucy's death had received a phone call from a distraught Mrs Dunford saying "it had happened again".

When she arrived at the house she urged Mrs Dunford to dial 999, and then rushed upstairs to Lucy's bedroom.

She found the child lying on her side on her bed, partially clothed and with the lower part of her body underneath her duvet cover.

She said she was reassured when she felt the child was warm to the touch and there was colour in her cheeks and lips - but then she noticed she was not breathing.

Marks on neck

Mrs Murdoch said she noticed a small but deep cut above Lucy's left eyebrow, but thought it was strange as there was no sign of bleeding.

She then proceeded to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Shortly after, neighbour Ann Humphries came to take over the resuscitation, after being called by Mrs Dunford, until the paramedics arrived.

Mrs Murdoch said she noticed marks on either side of Lucy's neck, which looked as though she had been bruised underneath the skin.

The hearing continues.

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