Tribute to grandad whose photos of 'killed by a kiss' Lancaster baby touched the nation

Photographs taken by a doting grandad of his newborn granddaughter went around the world after her tragic death and helped save the lives of other babies.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 3:45 pm
Ruth Schofield pictured after Jennifer's inquest in 2009 with the photos taken by her dad John which went around the world.

John Schofield took photos of baby Jennifer which featured on the front of the Lancaster Guardian in February 2009 after an inquest ruled Ruth Schofield had accidentally infected her 11-day-old daughter with herpes by kissing her.

Tiny Jennifer died in hospital on December 5 2006 after the virus attacked her major organs.

John's photos of Jennifer went on to be published in numerous national and international newspapers and were shown on TV as Ruth told her desperate story in a bid to help other new mums.

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Ruth Schofield with her dad John.

John sadly passed away last week and Ruth has paid tribute to her dad and said his photos hopefully helped save the lives of other newborn babies.

Ruth, now 47 and of Binyon Court, Lancaster, said: "Those photos that he took were splashed all over the news. If it wasn't for him taking those pictures back in 2006, my daughter's face would not have touched millions of lives. My story might have saved another baby's life.

"I just want to say thank you dad, because without those pictures there would have been nothing to show the world. They were everywhere."

John passed away in hospital in Whitehaven on November 23 surrounded by his family. The 79-year-old had Alzheimer's and also suffered heart failure.

"It's a sad time but it means I can raise awareness again," hairdresser Ruth said. "Those photos made people aware that a cold sore can be fatal.

"Even now when people see the photos they recognise them.

"There are still babies dying every year from the virus - it's shocking that it's still happening.

"It's life-threatening to a heavily pregnant woman and to a newborn baby."

Coincidentally, John passed away the day before Jennifer would have turned 14.

"That was the hardest thing," Ruth said. "Losing my dad and then the next day getting flowers to take to Jennifer's grave."

"But knowing how dad's pictures touched a nation is really special to me."

We reported in 2009 how an inquest found Jennifer had died from Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), which Ruth had probably caught during the late stages of pregnancy.

It is believed the virus was transmitted through either kissing or breastfeeding.

Towards the end of her pregnancy Ruth, then 35, complained of flu-like symptoms and was prescribed antibiotics.

Two days after giving birth to Jennifer on November 24 2006, she was treated by her GP for several mouth ulcers.

When Jennifer was eight days old she was admitted to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary for assessment, because she was sleepy and not feeding.

Her health quickly deteriorated and her family agreed to stop medical intervention on December 5.

The condition is thought to kill six babies a year in the United Kingdom and is generally minor in adults.

Ruth said at the time: “She should be here – I do not think any woman should go through the pain of losing a baby.

“It is very hard to see such a beautiful life wasted – I had 11 days of her memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

"You are not supposed to bury your children – they should be running around enjoying life. I never got to see her walk or smile – all these things a grieving mother thinks about.”

The inquest heard HSV is hard to detect, particularly in adults. It is more commonly diagnosed as a primary virus in children, and returns as a secondary infection throughout adulthood.

But in Ruth's case it was likely to be the first time she had caught the virus, giving her no time to build up resistance or pass any antibodies to her unborn child.

Coroner Dr James Adeley recorded a narrative verdict and added that neither members of the family nor clinicians should reproach themselves for Jennifer’s death.