Boy of three survived for two weeks on a diet of Ribena and crisps while his mother lay dead on the floor. Michael McGarrity was being treated for malnutrition at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh yesterday after police broke down the door of his mother’s flat.
The toddler, described by his grandmother as a “tough wee soul”, was so weak and dehydrated that he could barely stand when officers discovered him in the fifth-floor flat in Leith, near Edinburgh, on Saturday.
He had spent two weeks scavenging food from the larder and juice from the fridge after trying unsuccessfully to reach the handle on the flat’s front door. His presence had gone unnoticed although he apparently tried to attract attention by posting his mother’s mail back through the letter box.
“He was like a skeleton on Saturday night,” Eleanor McGarrity, 51, his grandmother, said. “He was very, very weak and very thin. He is still lethargic and sleepy and his speech is affected because of the dehydration. But we are confident he will make a full recovery.”
Last night it was still not clear how two weeks had passed before Michael’s nursery raised the alarm about his absence, and how other members of Michael’s family, including the boy’s father, said to visit once a week, had failed to contact police.
Lothian and Borders Police said yesterday that a post-mortem examination on Anne-Marie McGarrity, 33, his mother, had failed to identify the cause of death. Toxicology tests will not be completed for months.
The police said that they were not treating the death as suspicious. Although Ms McGarrity was known as a drug user, police refused to comment on reports that she had died of a heroin overdose and may have been on a methadone programme. Her mother said that she appeared to have “fallen from the settee”.
NHS Lothian said that patient confidentiality did not permit it to say whether Ms McGarrity had been on methadone, reports The Times. I.L.