A beautiful tribute has been paid to an unidentified baby found dead in a recycling center in the form of a teddy bear-shaped gravestone. Named only Baby S, the child was less than a day old when her body was found at the Sackers waste depot in Needham Market, Suffolk, on May 14, 2020. Tests found that she was likely smothered before she died and was dumped in a bin.
A simple funeral ceremony was held for her on February 17, during which she was buried in a tiny white coffin in the Millennium Cemetery in Ipswich. The funeral was primarily organized by Sackers, who later supplied the poignant headstone when the soil around the grave had settled.
The stone reads: “Baby S sleeps here. So small, so sweet, so soon, sleep little one, sleep.”
15 people attended Baby S’s funeral – including police, council officials and staff from Sackers. A single white rose was placed on top of the coffin as mourners wiped away tears.
Sackers said in a Facebook post that the story of Baby S had reached “thousands of people all over the world and has touched many of our followers since we first found her”.
They added that the headstone was placed to ensure “she never gets forgotten.”
A spokesperson for the firm added: “It was never in doubt that Baby S’ short life had to be marked and remembered, and it was never in question that it was our responsibility to ensure that happened.
“We wanted to make sure those who wanted to pay their respects were able to as her very sad story affected so many.”
Police believe the baby, who was discovered as staff sorted through waste on a conveyor belt, was dumped in a bin at one of 54 commercial sites in the Ipswich area, which had been picked up by two Sackers lorries. Despite the police’s best efforts and multiple appeals for the mother to come forward, Baby S’s parentage remains a mystery.
The baby had a series of injuries, some of which were head injuries, consistent with a traumatic birth. A post-mortem by Home Office pathologist Dr Virginia Fitzpatrick-Swallow found that her body suffered “numerous severe injuries” as she had gone through the waste recycling process after her death.
However, a disturbing discovery was revealed in further remains by consultant neuropathologist Professor Safa Al-Sarraj, who said he could not rule out the possibility that some of the body’s injuries were caused by “shaking trauma” or “smothering”.
This, he suggested, may point towards the cause of death for the infant, as these results were “not typical of birth trauma”.
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Senior coroner Nigel Parsley recorded an open conclusion at Suffolk Coroner’s Court in Ipswich after hearing how her cause of death was given as an unascertained brain injury, remarking that “we simply cannot say how Baby S came by her death.”
He added the brain injury could have been “birth-related” – but it also could have been the result of “inflicted or accidental trauma”.
Detective Chief Inspector Karl Nightingale, the senior investigating officer in the case, suggested that Baby S’s inflated lungs meant she was likely born alive.
He said the efforts to understand what had happened to her was “significantly hindered by the injuries caused by waste processing”, but remained sure that some of the injuries were “not caused by the waste recycling process.”
It was also not possible to ascertain which bin Baby S had been dumped in – although they were able to establish that she was of black or mixed-race ethnicity.
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Despite viewing over 11,000 hours of CCTV footage and visiting 800 homes and businesses around the sites where the baby may have been dumped, officers could not find any evidence.
Celebrant Patrick Eade compared Baby S to a “rosebud” in a heart-wrenching address to mourners.
He said: “Baby S, you will never be forgotten. May the light of love shine upon you, and upon those who care for you, and may you come to the end of your journey in gentleness and joy. Your memory remains in our hearts, and as long as we remember you, you will live on. With love and respect, we lay you down to rest. Go your way in peace.”
He also read a poem, which began with the words: “The world may never notice if a rosebud doesn’t bloom, or even pause to wonder if the petals fall too soon. But every life that ever forms, or ever comes to be, touches the world in some small way for all eternity.”
Suffolk Police are still urging the mother of Baby S or anyone who may have information about her to contact them.