The parents of a two-year-old girl who died in a garden pond after wandering out of a nursery have called for a review of laws governing safety at pre-school groups.

Abigail Rae (pictured) - who was known as Abby and suffered from epilepsy - was believed to have walked out of the Ready Teddy Go nursery in Lower Brailes, Warwickshire, through an open gate behind the playgroup's building.

She was found dead in the pond of a neighbour's garden.

An inquest jury at Stratford-upon-Avon Town Hall yesterday returned a verdict of accidental death resulting from neglect.

Abby's parents, Victoria and Justin, have started legal action against the staff and the nursery.

Although pleased by the verdict, they said they were devastated by the Crown Prosecution Service's decision not to bring charges of corporate manslaughter against the nursery following three years of investigation.

After the inquest, Mrs Rae, a 36 year-old former nurse who battled in vain to save her daughter, said: "The worse thing that happened was that day. This is nothing in comparison to that day.

"If anything we just need to get out now the issues surrounding pre-schools and the way that they're run."

Mr Rae, 39, said: "We are both obviously devastated. I think it sets a dangerous precedence if the law isn't there to protect children at pre-school, that's quite scary isn't it?"

The family's legal representative Rebecca Heasey said the family had launched a civil action against the nursery and staff. "I think what we have seen is a failure of the systems in the nursery and its procedures on that day," she said.

Three members of staff and a parent assistant were on duty on November 28, 2002, when Abby slipped away while the children were queuing up for the toilet, having put their toys away in a shed behind the main building.

She was last seen going into the main building by nursery helper Angel Doherty who was with her. But Ms Doherty then left her to attend to a crying toddler.

When they realised she was absent, three staff set out to search for her and they discovered the back gate ajar.

A bricklayer, Clive Peachy, saw a toddler, believed to be Abby, tottering along on her own near the nursery. But, he told the inquest, he did not stop for fear of people thinking he was trying to abduct her.

Mrs and Mrs Rae (pictured) bumped into nursery worker Sharon Hibberd, who was searching for Abby, in the village and she told them she was looking for a dog.

Ten minutes later the couple were told by nursery staff that Abby was missing and they joined in the frantic search. Mrs Rae jumped into the pond and pulled her daughter from the water.

She resuscitated her at the scene but the youngster was pronounced dead later that day in Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Nursery staff said they did not check the gate was bolted on the day Abby died as the children were not going to play outside as it was winter. The gate had stopped being used a few months before the death for safety reasons and it had recently had its bolt repaired.

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