A young man from Ripon has been hailed a hero after coming to the rescue of a baby who had been left in a carrier seat in the middle of the road by his mother.
Alex Wilson was driving through the town at night when he spotted what looked like an empty car seat baby carrier at a junction off Harrogate Road.
There was no sign of the child’s mother and then Mr Wilson saw what appeared to be a foot protruding from the baby seat, York Crown Court heard.
Despite fearing it might be a criminal scam, he turned his car around and drove back to the scene, suspecting it might be a trap, said prosecutor Danielle Gilmour.
“The carrier seat was positioned about 3ft into the road from the kerb,” added Ms Gilmour.
Mr Wilson, 21, could barely make out the black carrier because it was dark, with no street lighting. He was about to turn left, which would have taken him into the path of the baby carrier, but mercifully turned right.
“He said he would have had to react quite quickly to avoid running over the (baby) car seat (if he had not changed course),” added Ms Gilmour.
“Assuming the carrier seat was empty, Mr Wilson and his friend, who was in the passenger seat, became aware there was something in (the baby carrier) and described seeing a foot protruding from the (baby seat),” she said.
“They thought it might be a scam to get car drivers out of their cars, but there was no-one else in the street or nearby. They became concerned about seeing the foot and made the decision to go back and look. The carrier was still in the road.”
Mr Wilson parked his car near a fish-and-chip shop and made enquiries. He and a shop worker went out into the road and it was then that they discovered the baby, who appeared to be about six months’ old, sitting in the carrier in the road.
The baby was wearing just an all-in-one suit despite the fact it was a cold November night with the temperature plummeting to just above freezing.
The baby was carried into the shop and the young mother was later traced. Police found her “looking pale, unwell and crying”.
When asked if she had left the baby in the road, she told police: “I couldn’t cope, so I left him for two minutes.”
CCTV footage showed the mother laying the baby-carrier down at the road junction and then walking off, just minutes before the baby was discovered by Mr Wilson at about 8.30pm on a bitterly-cold November night.
Police took the baby to his grandmother’s home and the mother was arrested. She was hauled in for questioning at Harrogate Police Station but made no comment. She was charged with abandoning a child causing the life of the child to be endangered.
The mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, ultimately admitted the offence but skipped a court hearing and was remanded in custody. She appeared for sentence via video link on Thursday.
The court heard that the woman had many previous convictions for offences including drugs possession and stealing to fund her habit.
Defence barrister Philip Standfast said the mother’s inexplicable act in abandoning her baby “can only be a reflection of her dire state and mental condition at that time”.
She had had a troubled past and her attempts at coming off drugs had “relapsed in times of difficulty”.
She had also had problems with accommodation but was now trying to turn her life around and kick drugs so she could be reunited with her child, added Mr Standfast.
Judge Andrew Stubbs QC told the mother: “You have pleaded guilty to a shocking example of neglect (whereby) your very-young child was left… in the middle of the road in a car seat in the dead of night. You did something that was unimaginable to any parent.
“It was only due to the care of Mr Wilson that the carrier seat was recovered and no harm came to (the baby), but it could have been so, so different.”
Mr Stubbs said that to leave a “young and helpless child” in such a dangerous situation could only be met with a prison sentence. However, he said he could suspend the sentence because the defendant had been making efforts to beat her drug habit and turn her life around “more than most”.
The eight-month prison sentence was suspended for two years and includes a 30-day rehabilitation programme.
The judge said Mr Wilson deserved to be commended for his heroic and “public-spirited” actions “at a time when he was nervous about putting himself in a potentially difficult and dangerous situation”.
He ordered that the young joiner be paid £250 from public funds for his potentially-life-saving bravery and care.
Grammar-school-educated Mr Wilson, who went to Outwood Academy in Ripon and now works for the joinery business David Box Ltd, said he was startled to see the baby carrier and at first thought it was a scam by criminals who might try to steal his car.
“I’d just picked up one of my friends to go to York,” he added. “We saw this baby carrier in the middle of the road, but we couldn’t see the baby at first. All we could see was this foot sticking out of the baby carrier.
“I thought, ‘That’s a bit odd’. I pulled up and thought, ‘Oh, it’s a baby’. I ran into the fish-and-chip shop and we all came out. It was literally a child in a carrier, in the middle of the road. It was a completely-black carrier and the only reason I saw it was because the baby boy had a lighter-coloured ‘onesie’ on.”
Mr Wilson, who studied joinery at Harrogate College, said had he not changed direction in his car, “I’d have gone straight over the baby”.
He added: “You don’t just leave a baby in the middle of a road. I didn’t see any other cars pass by – which is lucky.”