Children taken from mum for eight months after nappy burns on daughter's legs were mistaken for scalding
Natalie, 25, a full time mum from Liverpool, rushed three-year-old Adelle to hospital when she awoke with a burst nappy which had leaked water-absorbing crystals onto her legs.
She was stunned when she was arrested on suspicion of abusing the toddler by scalding her with hot water. She was banned from having any contact with Adelle or her son Daniel, six, and both children were put into care.
Natalie launched a legal battle to prove the medics' claims were wrong and after an eight month fight, an independent medical expert finally confirmed Adelle's injuries were due to a chemical burn from her nappy.
"Those eight months without my children were the worst in my whole life," says Natalie. "I couldn't stop thinking about them, but I was not even allowed to hear their voices on the other end of the phone.
"I cannot believe they thought I would hurt my little Adelle on purpose. It was heartbreaking that they could think that of me. They said they were trying to protect Adelle and did not want another Baby P case."
Natalie first noticed Adelle had a nasty rash on her legs and thighs on May 25 last year after the little girl had been using a slide in the back garden. The next morning Adelle woke up with a nappy which was so full it had burst, spilling the chemical crystals from inside onto her skin.
Natalie treated the area with Sudacrem but when the sores failed to heal she took the youngster to Alder Hey Children's Hospital on May 29 where doctors examined the burns.
But staff suspected Adelle had suffered a non-accidental injury and Natalie and her partner Brendan Vevine, 23, were arrested. Adelle's biological father Dave Roberts, 28, a legal assistant, was also arrested the next day.
Social services were called and she was banned from seeing her children for 17 days.
Natalie says she had recently changed from Pampers to ASDA own-brand nappies to use for Adelle.
Natalie's bail conditions were later altered to allow her just two one hour visits each week while the children were being cared for nearby by their paternal grandmother Shirley Roberts, 54.
During the separation Natalie was eight weeks pregnant with Kaiden, now aged six months, and was warned she would need to attend a child protection conference in order to keep him.
Natalie challenged the decision and the case came before Liverpool County Court, where Catherine Raraty, an Associate Specialist in Burns & Plastic Surgery at Alder Hey, said she believed the injury was "most probably a scald".
She said: "I disagree that the most likely cause of this injury was chemical and I am of the opinion that the pattern which most likely fits is one of a scald in the standing position although I do not discount the possibility of a scald whilst lying prone."
Natalie later secured a review of the causes of Adelle's injury and an independent medical expert, retired forensic burns consultant Colin Rayner confirmed the injury was a chemical burn due to an exploding nappy, saying:
"The injury to Adelle consists of a chemical burn type of injury incurred when she was in prolonged contact on a flat surface with a relatively weak chemical and any such reaction exacerbated by soakage due to a large amount of urine or faeces."
Natalie was released from her bail last November and all charges were dropped.
"I was so happy and relieved when they said the children could come back. We are trying to have some sort of normal life now," says Natalie. "But Daniel is still affected by it now. He thinks I did not want him. It has been so hard trying to explain.I have lost my faith in doctors and nurses now. And they are all very suspicious of me as a mother.
"Whenever I have to take the children for check ups I get into such a state as I am scared they might take them away again.."
A spokeswoman for Alder Hey Children's Hospital said: "Patient safety is the Trust's number one priority and we have a legal obligation to follow safe guarding policies and procedures.It is standard practice to refer to social services any unexplained injury to enable an investigation to be carried out.
"We appreciate that this process can be extremely stressful for those families involved but child safety is always paramount."
A spokesman for Liverpool social services said: "In the interests of confidentiality and privacy, we are unable to comment on individual cases. However, the general policy is that when concerns are raised by clinicians, we have to carry out a full and detailed investigation. We fully appreciate this can be stressful for those involved, but it is done with the welfare of the child in mind."
A spokesperson for ASDA said: "Our nappies are rigorously tested so we are at a loss to understand how this could have happened. Nonetheless, we were very concerned to be informed about this issue yesterday (Tues).
"We sell millions of nappies each year and we have never had a complaint of this nature, so we would welcome the opportunity to investigate this with Ms Tung and her family."
What a living nightmare this family must have been through!