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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Disney toy 'not suitable for children'
Disney backpack
The range of Disney backpacks was withdrawn
A Disney backpack toy which killed a three-year-old Northumberland girl should never have been sold to children, an inquest has heard.

Ellie Lowes was found hanged in her bedroom at the family home, in Blackdene, Ashington, Northumberland, in January 2002, after being caught in the shoulder strap of the Winnie-the-Pooh toy.

The backpack, distributed by the Buena Vista home entertainment company, complied with UK safety standards.

But child safety expert Dr Sara Levene told the inquest at South East Northumberland Magistrates Court, she did not consider the item suitable for children.


What an awful sight her mother must have been confronted with when she went into the bedroom

Coroner, Ian McCreath

Paediatrician Dr Levene said the straps were too narrow and backpacks should not be used as toys.

No members of Ellie's family were present at the hearing, but a statement from her mother Melanie was read out.

It said Ellie, who leaves an older brother Jordan, nine, and sister Abby, 11, was playing alone on 26 January.

No blame

After 30 minutes Mrs Lowes went upstairs and found her daughter hanging.

She called her husband Trevor who attempted to resuscitate his daughter and the emergency services were called, but to no avail.

The coroner, Ian McCreath, said no blame should be attached to Ellie's parents.

"What an awful sight her mother must have been confronted with when she went into the bedroom and found her hanging there.

"What terrible distress must have been caused to the Lowes family," he said.

Toy withdrawn

Representatives of the video company Buena Vista and its supplier PKA Distribution were present at the hearing.

The cuddly toy, one of a series used to promote Disney videos, was withdrawn after the tragedy.

Toy safety expert Clive Shelton, who sits on the British Standards Committee, said the item complied with safety requirements.

He said between 1980 and 1995 there were three deaths of children under the age of 14 which were caused by "hanging by ligature" and he said none had been associated with toys.

'Criminal point'

Mr Shelton said information from the inquest would be considered at the next British Standards Committee meeting.

After Mr McCreath gave his verdict of accidental death, Northumberland County Council Trading Standards Officer Jim Rutter said no further action would be taken against either company.

Mr Rutter, safety team manager for the department, said hundreds of thousands of the toys had been withdrawn after the incident.

He added: "We looked into it from a criminal point of view and there is no further action being taken.

"They have said everything we wanted them to do today and it will be brought to the attention of the British Standards.


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10 Dec 01 | Business
15 Nov 01 | Wales
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