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Boy, four, dies in home tumble dryer after hide-and-seek game goes tragically wrong

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Boy, four, dies in home tumble dryer after hide-and-seek game goes tragically wrong

Post  Guest on Mon 26 Jul - 18:03

Boy, four, dies in home tumble dryer after hide-and-seek game goes tragically wrong

26th July 2010

A boy of four died after climbing into a tumble dryer in a game of hide-and-seek that went tragically wrong.

Sonny Shepherd was trapped in the machine for an hour while his family and a police helicopter searched nearby fields for him thinking he’d strayed from the house.

But when the search moved into the house, a police officer discovered the little boy in the machine’s drum and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Last night, it was still unclear whether he had suffocated in the tumble dryer or died as the machine began its cycle.

It is thought that he managed to climb into the machine and somehow close the door behind him.

Sonny’s mother Anne, who is in her mid-forties, was being comforted by neighbours last night and was too distraught to speak about what had happened.

Neighbours on the street in rural Ashbourne, Derbyshire, paid tribute to ‘the sweet little lad’ as police tried to piece together how the 'bizarre and tragic accident' had happened.

One neighbour, who asked not be named, said that Sonny loved playing hide-and-seek and was ‘always trying to give his older brothers and sisters a surprise’.

He had finished nursery last week and it was the first day of his summer holidays, neighbours said.

It is understood that his mother had gone shopping in Ashbourne town centre, Derbyshire, some time after 10am yesterday morning and had left Sonny's elder half-sister and half-brothers to look after him.

But the neighbour said: ‘I've been told that he was playing hide-and-seek while they were asleep in the front room.

‘It seems the little lad has climbed into the tumble dryer and somehow managed to shut the door while the rest of them were dozing on the sofa.

'The poor little mite was trapped inside. He must have been in there for at least an hour so.

'God only knows what it must have been like. While he was inside they were sat next door completely oblivious.

‘It's a terrible way for anyone to go but when it's a really lovely lad as young as him, it's even more awful.’

Police were called to the family's semi-detached home in the small market town just after 10.30am yesterday.

They were alerted by Sonny's mother who returned from her shopping trip to find her little boy missing.

She frantically called police who sent officers to search the immediate area and a helicopter was sent up to carry out an aerial search.

Police made loud hailer appeals telling everyone in the town to look out for a four-year-old boy believed to have disappeared from his home less than a mile away.

But within an hour, the grim discovery in the kitchen of the red brick three-bedroomed council house was made.

Other neighbours said that Miss Shepherd had recently split from Sonny's father and often left him in the care of her four other children from her previous relationship - Sarah 20, Nathan, 19, Martin, 17, and 15-year-old Luke.

Last night they were said to be inconsolable and were blaming themselves for the tragedy which unfolded under their noses.

A female neighbour said: ‘Anne has lived here a few years and recently had a long term relationship with Sonny's dad but he moved out a few months ago and I believe he was living in Burton-on-Trent.

‘This is obviously going to hit them both hard and you do wonder what effect it will have on the other kids.

‘He was a sweet little lad. He had just finished at nursery last week. This is the first day of the summer holidays, what a terrible way for them to start.’

Last night detectives were still at the scene carrying out forensic investigations inside the house and half of the quiet cul-de-sac remained cordoned off.

A police source said: ‘At the moment, we are at the very early stages of this investigation but it does seem it's a bizarre and tragic accident where this little boy has managed to climb inside a tumble dryer.’

A spokeswoman for Derbyshire Police said: ‘It's too early to say how this tragedy happened so we are carrying out further investigations.

‘We are awaiting results of a post-mortem before we determine what we do next.’

Neigbours said the child was know to them as Sonny Gibson but police refused to confirm the identity until post-mortem results are known.




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