1. ITV Report

Relatives give evidence at toddler's inquest

Relatives Neil Close and Julie Stout arrive at the hearing Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

The brother of a woman who killed her two year old son has told an inquest he never thought she would harm the child. Melanie Ruddell from County Durham strangled two year old Christy while experiencing mental health problems.

Christy died on Monday 9th August 2010. The inquest in Sunderland is focusing on the weekend leading up to that date.

Neil Close told the inquest that, in those two days, his sister's behaviour was 'a world away from the Melanie that we knew.'

The coroner later asked him if he had any anxieties about Christy's safety. Mr Close replied: 'Not at all."

Both Mr Close and his other sister Julie Stout expressed their fears to the hearing over Mrs Ruddell's behaviour. They described telephone and face to face contact between the family and the police that weekend. Mr Close told the hearing: "It didn't need a professional qualification to see there was something wrong with Melanie" though he conceded he would have an advantage over someone who didn't know his sister.

Ms Stout told the inquest she had asked a police officer over the phone if he could arrange for a GP to visit her sister but he had told her "In my opinion this is not extreme." Ms Stout told the hearing she would take those words to her grave.

The day before the killing, Mrs Ruddell was taken by ambulance to the University Hospital of Hartlepool but she discharged herself before she could be seen by a specialist mental health team.

Mrs Ruddell has previously pleaded guilty to Christy's manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. She is being treated in a secure hospital.

The inquest continues.

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