A junkie couple who gave their toddler methadone hours before she died were today jailed for a total of nearly three years.
Bonny Richards, 28, and John Davies, 32, injected 14-month-old Holly with the heroin substitute to help her sleep and keep her calm – and even rubbed it into her gums to ease teething pain.
But after Davies gave her a dose in January last year to settle her during a bout of chicken pox she fell asleep and never woke up.
Holly was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital and subsequent toxicology tests revealed she had been given methadone for a period of six months.
However, a post-mortem ruled out methadone as the cause of death, which was later given as an ”extremely rare” form of chicken pox leading to severe bronchial pneumonia.
The pair were initially charged with manslaughter, which they denied, but later admitted three counts each of child cruelty.
Jailing Richards for 15 months and Davies for 18 months at Bristol Crown Court yesterday, Mr Justice John Royce described their actions as ”dangerously misguided”.
”You were both recovering heroin users,” he said. ”You had been using methadone for seven years and should have know it was dangerous.
”This vulnerable young child was entitled to proper and responsible care from both of you.
”But you shut your eyes to the possible dangerous effects of administering methadone to her. It was reckless in the extreme and was dangerously misguided.”
The couple met in summer 2008 and heroin addict Davies moved in with Richards and little Holly, her daughter from a previous relationship, in Coleford, Glos.
Over the following weeks they would routinely administer their methadone – which they were legally prescribed – to the toddler.
The court heard how Richards, a DIY store manager, would rub the drug into Holly’s gums to help her teething pains.
Richard Smith, prosecuting, said: ”Over the course of the relationship, together on occasion, they would administer methadone to Holly.
”It is not that such application was with the direct intention of causing harm or injury, but rather driven by a desire to calm her when she became irritable, unsettled or ill.”
He added: ”They had set upon a course of action whereby if Holly was ill, methadone became a form of medication that they would employ.”
But on January 5 last year Holly was struck down with a bout of chicken pox and, as her condition worsened, the pair continued to administer the drug.
On January 11 Davies gave her a dose of the drug after she started crying and screaming in pain. It sent Holly to sleep but she never woke up.
The following morning, Davies discovered his daughter’s lifeless body in bed and she was rushed to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Unemployed Richards and Davies were arrested in February last year, when they both lied to police claiming they had never given the toddler methadone.
Richards received three 15 month sentences and Davies three 18 month terms for each charge they admitted, to run concurrently.
They showed no emotion as the sentences were passed.