July 2022

Drunk mum suffocated baby two years after other child died in her bed

A mum suffocated her baby in a drunken stupor two years after her other child tragically died in her bed.

Claire Ross lost her five-month-old daughter in July 2020 while her first child died in 2018.

She passed out drunk in bed with her babies on both occasions and the 39-year-old cried in court this week as she was tried for negligent homicide after the 2020 death.

The cause of death couldn’t be determined in the earlier case so criminal charges were dropped.

Ross, formerly of St Helens, had previously been convicted over a shocking drink driving case involving another child back in 2017

Then, Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard she had driven on the M62 motorway with her toddler in the car, while four and half times over the legal limit, when a tyre burst forcing her to stop on the hard-shoulder.

Lynn Clark, prosecuting that case, told the court: “The officers went to speak to the defendant to see if they could offer any assistance.

“They immediately noticed an overwhelming smell of alcohol, and noted her eyes were bloodshot and glazed, and that she was slurring her words. They formed the opinion she was drunk, although she denied she had been drinking.”

Ross told the officers that her then three-year-old daughter was in the back seat, although when they checked there was nobody else in the car.

It later emerged her husband, Ian Ross, had already driven to the scene and collected the girl before leaving his wife to wait for the breakdown services.

Claire Ross, who told the officers “I’m not a bad person”, was also found to have vomited in a bag which was found in the front of the vehicle.

Ross claimed she had still been drunk from the night before when she drank wine with a friend, but the court heard a witness statement from the friend who suggested Ross seemed “fine to drive” when she left.

She also claimed the extremely high reading on the police breath tests was because she had been drinking vodka while waiting for the breakdown services – a claim disputed by the Crown Prosecution Service.

She was sentenced to 10 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and referred to the Probation Service for five rehabilitation activity days. The Liverpool Echo approached Ross outside court about her reckless behaviour, but she declined to comment.

After that case the family moved to Prangins near the Swiss town of Nyon, where her husband had secured a job. However, Ross continued to struggle with a crippling alcohol addiction, and in 2018 she awoke after drinking to find her two-month old baby dead in bed with her.

According to Swiss media reports, prosecutors in Switzerland launched an investigation but it was dropped after a clear cause of death could not be determined, leaving open the possibility the baby died of natural causes such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Ross and her husband welcomed another baby in February 2020, although her drinking was still far from under control.

One morning in July 2020, Ross drank heavily and after putting the TV on for her eldest daughter, then six, she went to bed with her five-month old. According to Swiss prosecutors, she was so drunk she passed out on the bed with her body on top of the baby’s.

The eldest girl was alerted by sounds of distress from her baby sister, but could not wake her comatose mum. The girl managed to free her sister and placed her in a pram, before running to get help from a neighbour.

The neighbour, who was still unable to wake Ross from her drunken stupor, called the emergency services and the baby was rushed to hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later. Autopsy reports gave the cause of death as suffocation.

This time, prosecutors pursued the case and Ross was charged with negligent homicide at the district court in Nyon. The court heard even after the death of the second baby, Ross was caught drink driving again in August 2020, while parked outside a consultation she was attending.

During the hearing, prosecutor Jean-Marie Ruede told the court the death of the five-month-old girl was a “a remake in all respects” of the death of the first baby in 2018. 

The court heard Ross had since become a mother for a fourth time, although the baby was removed from her care and she currently has supervised visits. The eldest girl has since been returned to the family

Judges are set to deliver their verdict and any sentence on Tuesday