21 Jan 2015

Police silent on toddler's name

5:03 pm on 21 January 2015

Police in Whanganui say they are not in a position to release the name of a toddler who died in the grounds of Whanganui Hospital.

A police spokesperson said they were continuing to investigate the circumstances of the 16-month-old boy's death.

Whanganui Hospital

Whanganui Hospital Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Several media outlets are reporting the child's mother was a senior staff member at the hospital and was unaware she had left him in the car for several hours in the summer heat.

The police and the district health board are, however, refusing to confirm reports the child had been left in a car.

The hospital's spokesperson Sue Campion described the death as a family tragedy and said the board might be in a position to comment further tomorrow.

Police and Whanganui District Health Board say only that the death was sudden and a postmortem was completed on Saturday.

Staff members at a day care centre where media reports say the boy was supposed to have been dropped off would not comment today.

Radio New Zealand's reporter in Whanganui said staff at Noah's Ark Early Learning Centre were extremely emotional and one was in tears.

Whanganui Mayor Annette Main urged the community to have compassion for the family in what is a very harrowing time and warned against speculation.

She had received many messages from people who knew they could do nothing to help but wanted to let the family know they cared.

She said everyone made mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes had tragic consequences. Ms Main said many people have been in touch with heartfelt messages.

Noah's Ark early learning centre in Whanganui.

Noah's Ark early learning centre in Whanganui. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Acting Central District Crime Manager, Detective Inspector David Kirby, said police were notified of the death by the hospital, and as with any sudden death, inquiries were being made to establish the circumstances in which the child died.

A post-mortem was completed at the Wellington Hospital on 17 January and further tests were underway.

Officers were also speaking with the baby's family and hospital staff. Police are not looking for anybody else as a result of the death, Mr Kirby said in a statement.

"Any death of a child is always tragic however; it is too early in the investigation to comment on what happened and what the outcome of the investigation will be," he said

"Whanganui Police have notified the Coroner, and are not in a position to comment any further on the investigation."

Whanganui District Health Board would only confirm a sudden and tragic death occurred in the hospital grounds on Friday morning.