Dear Sally, if only we could turn the clock back

A letter to Sally Clark, whose death at her home has just been announced.

Dear Sally,

I can’t imagine there is one mother in the country who didn’t share your sense of anguish, your feeling of abandonment and utter bewilderment, as well as the deep grief you experienced following the loss of your two dear little baby boys who died inexplicable only a few weeks old.

That alone is the cruellest blow that can dealt to any parent. I could not survive such a tragedy. You then had to suffer the nudges and pointed fingers and, even worse, a criminal court case where you were convicted of their murder following misleading evidence given by paediatrician Sir Roy Meadow. Despite all your your legal experience and your faith and respect for British justice, you were convicted and torn apart from your home, your husband and your remaining son. Can any nightmare be worse? Mercifully, you were later freed on appeal, though your pain and inner turmoil must have been insurmountable, the life sentence would last for ever.

This is one the saddest and most sorrowful cases I have heard. I always admired the strength and loyalty of your husband and family who stalwartly believed in your innocence, their suffering now must be more than words can describe.

I have no answers as to why life is so cruel to some, if only we could turn the clock back….


  1. The Cause of Cot Death and How to Prevent it – by Dr Jim Sprott


    Many parents will be unaware of a 100% successful cot death prevention campaign which a New Zealand scientist, Dr Jim Sprott, has been running for several years.

    Dr Sprott states with certainty that the cause of cot death has been discovered: It is caused by very toxic nerve gases which can be generated from mattresses and certain other bedding used in babies’ cots.

    The solution is to prevent exposure of babies to the gases, by wrapping mattresses in accordance with a specified protocol and ensuring that bedding used on top of a wrapped mattresses does not contain any phosphorus, arsenic or antimony (the chemicals which – when combined with fungal growth – can result in the gas generation concerned).

    And the method works. Since late 1994 mattress-wrapping has been publicised nationwide in New Zealand, and during that time an estimated 120,000 babies have slept on wrapped mattresses. Prior to the commencement of mattress-wrapping, New Zealand had the highest cot death rate in the world (2.1 deaths per 1000 live births). Following the adoption of mattress-wrapping the New Zealand cot death rate has fallen by 48% – and there has been no reported cot death among those babies who have slept on correctly wrapped mattresses.

    This major reduction in the New Zealand cot death rate cannot be attributed to orthodox cot death prevention advice (e.g. face-up sleeping). There has been no material change in that advice in New Zealand since 1992.

    So what does Dr Sprott say about orthodox cot death advice?

    Don’t smoke around your baby.

    Recent history refutes any suggestion that smoking causes cot death, says Dr Sprott. Smoking was very common in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s, but cot death was virtually non-existent.

    Smoking is prevalent in present-day Russia and Japan, but the cot death rates are low. No cause-and-effect relationship between smoking and cot death has been established – they are socio-economic parallels. Put another way, smoking is more common among poorer people, and so is cot death. But it does not follow that smoking is therefore a cot death risk factor.

    Don’t bedshare with your baby if you also smoke or smoked during pregnancy.

    Misleading advice, says Dr Sprott. The risk posed by bedsharing does not arise from smoking – it arises from the mattress. Adults’ mattresses very frequently contain the same chemicals and fungi as babies’ mattresses, and therefore they can generate the same toxic gas/es. (For physiological reasons adults are not put at risk by this gas generation in mattresses.)

    Sleep your baby with feet to the foot of the cot.

    According to Dr Sprott, this practice affords no protection whatsoever against cot death. Any area on an unwrapped mattress where a baby sleeps is a potential source of toxic gas, since that is the area which becomes warm and moist (promoting the fungal activity which can cause gas generation).

    Sleep your baby face up.

    Face-up sleeping is a partial preventive against cot death. This is because the gases which cause cot death are more dense than air. They diffuse away towards the floor, and therefore a baby sleeping face up is less likely to inhale them.

    So the partial success of face-up sleeping confirms the toxic gas theory. And so does much more research. According to Dr Sprott (who has a PhD in chemistry and is expert in the gas generation concerned), every step in the toxic gas theory for cot death has been proved. A considerable amount of this research has been written up and published in peer-reviewed medical and other scientific journals. In fact, mattress-wrapping for cot death prevention is supported by wider research than supported the introduction of various items of orthodox advice (including face-up sleeping). And contrary to claims by numerous orthodox cot death researchers, the 1998 UK Limerick Report did not disprove the toxic gas theory – as a highly qualified environmental scientist has pointed out in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

    Some researchers have stated that cot death may have a number of causes (the so-called “multifactorial” theory). Not so, says Dr Sprott. At this point he draws attention to a highly significant piece of information about cot death, which is demonstrated by British statistics: the cot death rate rises from the first baby in a family to the second, and from the second baby to the third, and so on. Babies of solo parents have a very high cot death rate. Dr Sprott explains that the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next destroys every medical and physiological theory for the cause of cot death.

    For example, some researchers think cot death is caused by babies re-breathing their exhaled carbon dioxide. However, all babies exhale a similar amount of CO2, regardless of whether they are first, second or later babies. Therefore, the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next refutes the CO2 theory.

    Some researchers think cot death is related to the size of babies’ airways. However, for this theory to be valid would require second babies’ airways to be smaller than those of first babies; and third babies’ airways to be smaller than those of second babies; and so on. Clearly, therefore, the airways theory is wrong, because the size of babies’ airways is not related to birth order.

    So what is the explanation for the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next? Cot death is caused by gases generated in mattresses – and many parents re-use mattresses from one baby to the next. If a mattress contains any of the chemicals concerned and fungi have become established in the mattress during previous use by another baby, generation of toxic gas commences sooner and in greater volume when the mattress is re-used. This accounts for the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to the next. It also accounts for the very high cot death rate among babies of solo parents, who for economic reasons are more likely to sleep their babies on previously used mattresses which they have acquired secondhand.

    It all fits from a theoretical point of view, says Dr Sprott – and the seven-year New Zealand experience provides practical proof that mattress-wrapping prevents cot death.

    Orthodox cot death researchers say that cot death rates have fallen without the introduction of mattress-wrapping – and they have. But Dr Sprott points out a crucial difference: Many babies have died of cot death where parents followed orthodox cot death prevention advice; but there has been no reported cot death on a correctly wrapped mattress. Unlike orthodox advice, mattress-wrapping has a 100% success record in cot death prevention.

    This article was written by Dr Sprott Cotlife 2000

  2. Yes and so would I. God bless.

  3. Thank you for that Ellee. So many of us are good with words, but when it really matters, we are lost for words. I extend my arm around Sally’s family.

  4. Linda, I believe she died of a broken heart, I suspect I would have done too in her shoes.

  5. I can’t believe that one mother should have to endure such grief and all under public scrutiny. Thank you for a moving and thought-provoking read.

  6. It is no comfort, but if it hadn’t been for Sally, many other grieving cot-death mothers would be in prison rather than at home with their families today.

  7. Kevin, I’m sure your prayers will be much apppreicated. It’s so poignant that tomorrow is Mothering Sunday.

  8. electro-kevin

    A tragic and depressing story. Will say a prayer at church tomorrow.

  9. God rest her soul. She is with her two little sons now and for all eternity.

  10. Kerry, your comment brought tears to my eyes. My sons are my life and I can’t begin to image how Sally must have felt after the tragic deaths of her two lovely babies. She would have remembered their soft, silky skin and unique lovely baby smell, how they tightly gripped her finger, their gurgling sounds and their wide-eyed gaze into her face as she fed them, their cheeky little grin and dimples. To lose those innocent infants who you love more than anything else in the world and endure what she afterwards did must have been a living hell.

    The whole nation has been stunned by Sally’s death and hopes she is resting in peace, and for her family to have strength during their terrible ordeal. The ones who are left behind so much suffer so much.

  11. I feel total sadness for Sally and her family and sheer anger at Meadows and his ilk, Southall included.

  12. Kerry Peiniger

    I am sitting in Australia in complete disbelief- I had the pleasure to know Sally- to work with her – to share the loss of Christopher with her- as tears ran down her face- to learn of her joy soon after of being pregnant with Harry- she was an amazing lady- and friend- a wonderful mum – and her and Steve were a beautiful couple. She faced adversity with strength- and even the time in prison- her letters showed she had not lost that magical Sally humour- she joked that even in prison wouldn’t stop her designing her son’s bedroom and his birthday parties. God bless her.
    May she find the peace that she so dearly deserves- my heart and prayers to Steve, her son and family.

  13. I have blogged on the topic of Roy Meadows a few times. It is hard to imagine that there can ever have been a more smug, unrepentant, and unsympathetic individual than this man.

    Maybe my anger is so great because we share the scientific profession, and it’s harder for me than for most laypersons to understand how the combination of stubborn pigheadedness and an unforgivable ignorance of elementary statistical analysis could have been allowed to cause so much suffering to so many families.

    Let’s hope that this latest tragedy marks an end to the Roy Meadows story.

  14. I could not survive such a tragedy

    Nor could I Ellee and what we be the point anyway. There are more important things than staying alive.

    I know the theologocal arguenmts for the existence of pain but I have always found them eentirely inadequate when the reality is brought before you.

    If I had any faith I think I might hate god

  15. J, thank you for your moving tribute and true words.

  16. Sally was a quiet, bright and caring person. She suffered more humiliation and adversity than most of us could ever imagine. God bless her and strength and goodwill to all her family who have shared her faith and quiet, dignified courage throughout. It is horifying to think that a progressive and enlightened country such as Britain, could ever be guilty of creating such a blighted and unjust society where the innocent stand punished amongst the guilty and ego rules supreme over truth. Sally was brave for so long, she held a mirror up to society and forced us to gaze at the reflection. Sally and you will not be forgotten.

  17. Oh, god, Ellee, I only know about this tragic news from your site. Poor woman – none of us can imagine what she had been through and the scars it left. It must all just have been too much for her and I have no more words… She must have felt so alone.

  18. David, She was only 42, but if there is another world, and I have no idea about that, then I hope she is in peace.

  19. What more can you say but

    Rest in Peace.

  20. Life can be really cruel, as you say, Ellee.


  1. Bel is thinking : Blog Archive : Sally Clark - [...] Over at Ellee’s place, a moving letter to Sally Clark who died today. It says everything I would have…

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