The police officer who led the investigation into the death of a two year-old girl found in a garden pond told an inquest yesterday the tragedy was preventable.
Abigail Rae, known to her family as Abby, escaped unnoticed from the Ready Teddy Go nursery at the Old School in Brailes, Warwickshire, and is believed to have run into a neighbour's garden before falling into the pond.
Detective Inspector George Stepney, from Warwickshire Police, told the inquest in Stratford-upon-Avon that he believed Abby's death could have been prevented if there had been effective management and better safety at the nursery.
"I anticipated Crown Prosecution Service advice in relation to the consideration of a prosecution for gross neglect manslaughter," he told the inquest.
"This was on the following basis: the nursery had a duty of care, this was breached and a death of a child resulted."
He added: "At the end of the police investigation it was my opinion that this was a preventable death had effective management been in place, had there been safer working practices in place and up to date."
Det Insp Stepney said that after lengthy and considerable advice, the CPS considered that no prose-cution should be brought.
Mrs Sheila Flanders, a regis-tration and compliance inspector for Ofsted, had visited Ready Teddy Go and told them they needed to complete a risk assessment but they did not, the inquest was told.
Earlier, the hearing was told that staff at the nursery had not checked the back gate because it was November and they would not be taking the children outside.
But Mrs Flanders said: "You would expect there to be some sort of checking procedure of the outside area."
Earlier, Mrs Ruth Webb told the court she was doing some house-work on the morning of November 28, 2002, when she heard shouting outside and a neighbour knocked on her door alerting her to the disappearance of the toddler.
She and her neighbours conducted a quick search of the garden of number 2 School Lane, Brailes, which she had shared with her husband Keith for 11 years.
Unable to find Abby, the neighbours then left without looking in the pond, which was disguised by vegetation, to continue the search elsewhere in the village.
After initially returning indoors, Mrs Webb returned to the garden alone to search further. It was then that she saw a hole in the red weed in the water.
"I could not make out what it was. I looked again and saw a wellington. I ran to the playgroup and told them 'I think there is something in the pond'."
She returned to the garden with staff from the school and bumped into Abby's mother en-route. Abby was taken to Birmingham Children's Hospital, where three hours later she was pronounced dead.
Home Office Pathologist Claus Chen determined the cause of death as immersion which could have been caused by drowning, reaction to falling into cold water or plant material becoming lodged in her throat. He said there was also a presence of bronchial pneumonia which could have developed after she fell into the pool.
The inquest continues.