Bed boss admits failing to discharge his duty over baby death

Bed boss who designed £655 cot in which seven-month-old boy ‘choked to death’ pleads guilty to fraud and failing to discharge his duty after manslaughter charge is withdrawn

  • Designer of cot in which baby boy died admits failing to discharge his duty
  • Craig Williams, 37, pleaded guilty to charge after Oscar Abbey choked to death
  • Seven-month-old’s head became stuck between bars of the bespoke bed
  • Williams has denied manslaughter and jury was told to find him not guilty

Bed firm boss Craig Williams (pictured) from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, admitted failing to discharge his duty and fraud but was not guilty of gross negligent manslaughter over the death of baby Oscar Abbey

The designer of a cot in which a seven-month-old baby ‘choked to death’ has admitted fraud and failing to discharge his duty as an employer.

Craig Williams, 37, was behind the bed in which seven-month-old Oscar Abbey died and pleaded guilty to the charges at Leeds Crown Court today.

Oscar tragically choked to death on November 3, 2016, after sleeping in a bed designed and constructed by Playtime Beds Limited, run by Williams.

Williams, 37, of Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had been on trial for gross negligence manslaughter but the jury was asked to return a not-guilty verdict to this today.

During the two-week trial, jurors were told how the toddler’s parents, Charlie and Shannon Abbey, had purchased the bed from Williams’s Sheffield-based Playtime Beds Ltd company.

John Elvidge, prosecuting, told how the toddler had ‘choked to death’ after trying to crawl through a hole in the front of the bed in November 2016.

Williams also pleaded guilty to fraud and will be sentenced on Friday.

The fraud charge stated that between November 14 and 22, 2016 – after Oscar’s death – he continued to trade, falsely claiming his beds complied with British Standards and that he had ‘no knowledge what had happened to a company called Playtime Beds.’ 

The court previously heard that by British standards, the bed should have had an age restriction label on its structure. 

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Oscar was found face-down and ‘cold’ at his York home on November 3, 2016, just days after parents Charlie and Shannon Abbey splashed out on the bespoke bed. 

His head had become stuck between bars and the gap between them was ‘unsafe’, the court had been told by experts.

The trial previously heard Williams reassured Oscar’s mother Shannon Abbey that the beds were safe for children of ‘any age’.

Even after Oscar’s death, Williams continued to falsely claim that his beds met British Standards so that he could continue to sell them, the court was told.

Oscar, was the youngest of Charlie and Shannon Abbey’s children. Their elder son Maxwell was aged two and a half when the tragedy occurred.

The parents of the baby boy found him dead with his head through the bars of this £665 cot

The couple had moved into a two bedroom local authority house in York and needed a bed that both their children could use because Oscar had grown too big for his Moses basket.

Mrs Abbey, a McDonald’s shift worker, saw an advert for Playtime Beds online and saw they produced a bed with a cot underneath it for £655 with a £45 charge to deliver and assemble it.

She paid a £100 deposit but before she bought the bed she made inquiries in an email exchange with Williams about the age of the children who could sleep in it.

Playtime Beds opened in two industrial units in Sheffield in 2011 and became a limited company in 2015 selling ‘bespoke children’s beds’.

Sheffield Trading Standards later issued a ‘withdrawal notice’ preventing Playtime Beds from trading. 

During the trial, John Elvidge QC, prosecuting, said the defendant had been the ‘controlling mind’ behind the Sheffield-based firm.

The company made bespoke, MDF beds in a range of shapes, the jury heard.

Williams (pictured), will be sentenced on Friday alongside employee Joseph Bruce

Speaking about the night of Oscar’s death, Mr Elvidge said: ‘During the course of the night, he wriggled his body through the holes at the front of his cot bed.

‘His head was too big to fit through.

‘In effect, he choked to death. He was starved of oxygen.’

In a statement read to the court, Mr Abbey, 24, described finding his son trapped face-down in the front of the cot.

‘I instantly realised he’d gone,’ he said.

‘It looked like he’d tried to crawl out backwards but his head was stuck.’

In her statement, Mrs Abbey, 23, said she woke up and ‘I heard Charlie shouting and screaming ‘He’s not breathing’.

‘I ran to the landing and Charlie was holding Oscar in both arms.’

Williams was granted bail until Friday, when he will be sentenced alongside employee Joseph Bruce, 30, of Rotherham, who also admitted fraud.

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