Review call after Ottery boy’s pool death

A CORONER has called for a review of respite services in Devon following the death of an 11-year-old boy from Ottery St Mary.

Dr Elizabeth Earland said yesterday she was ‘satisfied’ Adrian Pullman would not have died if he hadn’t gained entry to a swimming pool while on respite care near Colyton.

Dr Earland recorded a ‘narrative verdict’ of drowning at the conclusion of an inquest into the youngster’s death.

His father Roger wept at Devon County Hall as the coroner described how Adrian was discovered with his head underwater in the swimming pool at Little Farm in Southleigh in August 2003.

He had waited more than eight years to hear the details surrounding his son’s death while on an overnight respite care break.

Adrian, who had learning difficulties and lived with his father in Gosford, was found by the couple who ran the foster home after he gave them the slip for ‘no more than five minutes’, according to their statements.

Dr Earland said in summing up the case: “I am satisfied Adrian would not have died if he had not gained access to the swimming pool.”

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She declared the 11-year-old’s cause of death was drowning, but said the brain infection encephalitis had ‘contributed to’, but not directly caused, his death.

The coroner also said she would be filing a report on Adrian Pullman’s death, asking for a review in Devon on the provision of respite care breaks for children with disabilities.

She said the case had highlighted ‘much confusion’ in the organisation of such short breaks, but conceded a lot of changes have been made since the incident in 2003.

Over the past week, the court heard how Little Farm’s owners, Phillip Crofts and his wife Christine Shuttleworth-Crofts, were registered as carers with both Devon Social Services and Lifeways, an independent company licensed to provide respite care.

This had caused confusion over how many children were supposed to be staying with the couple, who ended up with four when Adrian arrived around 4.20pm on August 10, 2003.

Less than an hour later, he was found slumped in the shallow end of their pool and, despite being airlifted to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, was pronounced dead shortly after.

Dr Earland apologised to Mr Pullman for the length of time the inquest took to be competed, but said: “It has been a most complex investigation.”