Gran of drowned toddler is found dead
A GRANDMOTHER who blamed herself for the death of her two-year-old grandson – who drowned in her garden pond while she slept on the sofa – has been found dead at her home.
Alcoholic Hilary Rees had drunk around eight pints of cider in a pub with the parents of two-year-old Daniel Marshall Rees-Smith, right, before taking her grandson home with her.
She fell asleep on her sofa at home in Mount Hill Road, Hanham, leaving Daniel unsupervised – and he was discovered face down in the pond when his parents returned from the pub.
As a result of Daniel's death in June 2010 his parents Charlotte Rees-Smith and Andrew Marshall, as well as Mrs Rees, were arrested and later admitted child neglect charges.
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All three of them avoided jail in July last year after being given suspended terms of imprisonment.
But just days after going to a memorial ceremony to mark what would have been Daniel's fourth birthday, Mrs Rees was found dead at her home.
A friend of Mrs Rees, who asked not to be named, told the Post the 45-year-old had always blamed herself for Daniel's death but that her own death had come as a great shock. The friend said she believed that Mrs Rees had taken her own life.
She said: "They had a memorial on Saturday for baby Daniel and set off balloons in his memory, and Hilary was there.
"She battled with drink for a while and also the loss of Daniel. Facing the public was so hard for her but she did it – it just wasn't enough to get her through.
"Hilary was a bit dizzy but an amazing accountant in her day, yet after baby Daniel's death nothing mattered.
"She lost her job, and locals to a point turned against her but she stood tall, stayed in her house and tried to dismiss the titters behind her back.
"She blamed herself for being drunk the night he died and missed Daniel so much. He was the apple of her eye.
"Her true friends stood by her and it seemed that she was coping – how little did we all know. We are all grieving."
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset police said: "At around 4.30 on Monday afternoon, police received a call from someone concerned for the welfare of a woman.
"Police attended the address and found the body of a woman believed to be in her 40s.
"The death is not being treated as suspicious."
Daniel would have turned four last Wednesday.
Ms Rees-Smith paid tribute to her mother on social media website Facebook yesterday, saying: "Rip mum no matter what I love you :) that's all anyone needs to know."
During Mrs Rees' court case in July last year a judge heard that she had a serious alcohol problem and would drink cheap wine and Natch cider.
Her nephew Ashley Smith told the court that when he would visit Mrs Rees's home she was nearly always drunk or 'well on the way'.
He told the court: "She would habitually drink at home first and then go on to the Cross Keys pub in Hanham, which was the family's local.
"Hilary also used cannabis regularly, and confessed to an acquaintance that she had cannabis plants in the loft on the day Daniel died."
When Mr Smith lodged at Mrs Rees' home he said he would frequently see Mrs Rees passed out, with Daniel unattended downstairs or in his travel cot upstairs.
The court heard that Mrs Rees also overdosed on antidepressants on the night of Daniel's death but she told officers she had taken them after she heard her grandson was dead.
After the court case a serious case review found that authorities were well aware of problems with Daniel's family before he was even born.
But chances to deal with them were missed due to repeated shortcomings by a number of agencies, including social services, Bristol's youth offending team and Bristol City Council's Children and Young People's Services department.
More than a dozen organisations had contact with Daniel's family in the few years before his death, including Avon and Somerset Police, Great Western Ambulance Service, child care services in Bristol and South Gloucestershire and the two Bristol hospital trusts.
All contributed to a serious case review, held by the Bristol Safeguarding Children Board, an independent body that co-ordinates different organisations that work on child protection.
The board made six recommendations for "lessons to be learned" from Daniel's experience, including developing a better understanding of how alcohol abuse in families can affect children's welfare.
Yesterday a spokeswoman for Avon Coroner's Court confirmed: "We have received a file from police and a post-mortem will be carried out later."