Neighbours speak out about chaotic care of Bedford toddler who died

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Horrified neighbours of a mother who provided ‘chaotic’ care for her daughter before her death have branded her a pathological liar.

A coroner blasted Autumn Gooch’s mother Nikki, 29, for fabricating her account of what happened on the day her daughter died during her inquest this week.

Her own brother Darren Gooch, 31, even called her a liar during the shocking hearing at Bedfordshire Coroners’ Court.

Throughout the hearing Miss Gooch denied she had ever lied.

Miss Gooch was originally arrested on suspicion of murder following her daughter’s death on April 11, 2015.

She was later charged with neglect but this was dropped after a post-mortem on the 19-month-old’s body proved inconclusive.

Because no cause of death could definitively be given coroner Martin Oldham was forced to record an open verdict.

This has re-led to concerns that Miss Gooch, who lived alone with Autumn at the time of her death, lied about when and how her daughter died.

Sue Lack, 63, lived next the family at their semi-detached house in Maulden when Autumn died.

She said: “We used to talk over the fence but she’s (Nikki) a pathological liar, you could never trust anything she said.

“She said all kinds of things after Autumn died, and would change what she said from day to day.

“The day before she died I was in the garden and Autumn was sitting on the fence and she was as chirpy as anything.

“The night before Autumn died, Nikki was hanging out the bedroom window having a cigarette and talking to my son and daughter-in-law and she said ‘nobody’s having her’.

“She said none of the family is having Autumn and social services aren’t having her.

“They phoned the police straight away and made a statement about what Nikki said but the police didn’t act quickly enough.

“Really to my mind, if they’d got social services to come out and just take her, she could still be here.

“I can’t understand why they didn’t do anything on the Friday night.”

Concerns were raised about Autumn’s care when Miss Gooch was found drunk with her older son in 2013.

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

Social services began observing her and her then partner Craig Macdonald and when things didn’t improve they tried to have Autumn placed in foster care.

However a judge at Luton Family Court ordered that Mr Macdonald leave the house.

This was over concerns about his drinking despite him being Autumn’s main care giver.

Miss Gooch then had to sign an document which allowed her to keep her daughter as long as she agreed to have daily visits from social services and family members.

Mrs Lack said: “I never really saw Autumn after Craig left. I was sorting out my fish pond and we heard Autumn crying in her bedroom and Nikki was screaming at her ‘shut the f*** up’.

“Craig was the one who used to feed and change Autumn and the problems probably started after he left. She used to be dressed and I knew she’d been fed because I saw food around her mouth.

“And she wasn’t put to bed all the time like she was after Craig left. You never really saw her after he left.

“Poor old Craig wasn’t even here (when it happened). If he was there things would have been a lot different.”

Miss Gooch called an ambulance at 2pm on the day Autumn died when she claimed she went upstairs and found her unresponsive.

She said that she had woken her daughter up around 7am that day and bathed, changed and fed her before putting her back to bed.

Several people disputed the accuracy of this account and the post-mortem revealed Autumn was in a state of rigor mortis, suggesting she died several hours earlier.

Describing the day she died, she said: “There are so many different stories.

“Nikki said she left some cheeselets by the door in case she got hungry and that was it. And then as far I was concerned she just went on the chat lines and left her.

“She said she fed her breakfast but she’d just left cheeselets outside. That lovely little girl didn’t deserve that.

“I don’t think she even went up, I think that little girl was just left.

“When the ambulance man carried her out I could see part of her little legs and her foot hanging out from the blanket, this little purpley foot and part of her leg, that’s when I realised it was her. That haunts me even to this day.

“She just slipped through the net - the court ruled against social services taking her. They did try.

“It’s horrible, very bad. Let’s hope they do her for neglect or something like that. She shouldn’t be allowed out and about with normal people.

“She lost her first son, he was taken away and lives with his dad.

“It makes you wonder doesn’t it. You’d never expect it at all, that’s the worst part of it.”