A mum has recounted the horrifying moment she realised one of her two twin daughters had died while sleeping next to her sister.
Riely Wratten-Jeffries was found dead by her three year old twin Charlotte, after they shared ‘one last kiss’ in a bedtime game they played with mum Shanna.
Following Riely’s death Charlotte insisted on laying out her sister’s clothes as well as getting out toys for her to play with.
She also lays the table for her missing sister at mealtimes.
Shanna, 29, from Salford, says: “Charlotte misses her sister and talks about her all the time.
“Every time she plays, she gets out two desks, two scooters, two Frozen bikes. She makes sure that Riely is not forgotten.
“At mealtimes, she will bring cutlery for Riely. And in the mornings, she lays out clothes for Riely, on her little bed, which is next to hers.
“It is heart-breaking but this is Charlotte’s way of remembering her twin and it’s such a comfort to know that one lives on through the other.”
Shanna and her husband, George, 42, have said the identical twins shared an incredible bond which transcended language.
Shanna continued: “The twins went to bed the night before Riely died, just like any other.
"Riely had a funny little routine of wanting more and more kisses at night as a way of staying awake for longer.
“She said to me: ‘One last kiss, mummy’ and pursed her lips up, which made me laugh. I couldn’t have known that it would actually be our last kiss ever.
“Each milestone with Charlotte is bitter-sweet because we know that Riely should be here too.
“We were looking round schools for Charlotte and cemeteries for Riely. It was absolutely devastating.”
Shanna and George met in 2009 and quickly had oldest son Logan, ten.
Their twin daughters were born in June 2013 four weeks early.
Riely was born first and was perfectly healthy.
Charlotte was delivered second and was not breathing.
Shanna said: “It was touch and go and Charlotte was in ICU for a few days but she pulled through.
"When we brought them home it was the proudest day of my life.
“The twins were identical and looked so similar but they were so different in character. Riely was impulsive and boisterous; very confident, easy-going and sociable.
“But Charlotte was quiet and shy and would wait for Riely to lead the way.
“The girls had their own language and there was an intuition between them.
"Each could tell what the other was thinking, usually without a single word. They were in their own little world and it was fascinating to watch.
“They had beds side by side and they were absolutely inseparable.
“If one was ill, the other would sense it and come to tell me. They really looked after each other, especially Charlotte because she was so caring.”
In March 2017, both girls went to nursery as usual but Riely seemed unwell when she came home.
Her mum gave her an Ibuprofen and kept an eye on her temperature.
“By the time she went to bed she seemed fine, she and Charlotte had new dolls’ cots and they were really excited about them," she continued.
“As they got ready for bed, Riely put her own nappy on back to front and we were laughing about it. She had a funny little routine of wanting more and more kisses at night as a way of staying awake for longer.
“She said to me: ‘One last kiss, mummy’ and pursed her lips up which made me laugh. I couldn’t have known that it would actually be our last kiss ever.”
At 7.30am the following morning, as Shanna got the twins’ clothes ready for school, she heard Charlotte calling: ‘My sister! My sister!'
Shanna says: “I could hear something in her voice and I dashed upstairs. Riely was asleep and I was trying to wake her but as I pulled back the covers I touched her skin and she was really cold.
“I started screaming. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”
George frantically tried CPR whilst Shanna called 999. But it was too late.
She was pronounced dead at the scene.
An investigation was launched into her death and the family were interviewed by police officers.
Shanna says: “It was heart-breaking, coming home to find two of everything.
“We told Charlotte that Riely is with the angels and we even took her to the chapel of rest, to say goodbye to her sister because we wanted her to understand that she has gone with the angels.
“We know that a part of Riely lives on through Charlotte. They look so similar and sometimes it takes my breath away.
“It’s been tough for Logan. He keeps trying to find ways to bring her back.
"He’s asked me for a digger so that he can go and find her. He wants to get the Superheroes in his books to help him find Riely.
“He misses her terribly.
“Although we only had her for three years, she gave us some wonderful memories which we will cherish for the rest of our lives.”
A hearing at Bolton Coroner’s Court in August heard that Riely had a red rash on her skin when she was found, which was not present when they put her to bed.
Doctors feared she may have had a meningococcal infection, which could have caused meningitis .
Pathologist Melanie Newbould said it appeared Riely had a suffered a ‘severe, rapidly on-setting infection’.
Police confirmed there were no suspicious circumstances or third party involvement.
Assistant coroner Susan Duncan, recording a narrative conclusion, said Riely died ‘as the result of an unidentified natural cause of death’.
“We have heard significant amount of evidence and it shows there was nothing out of the ordinary and this family were just following their normal daily routine,” she added.
She told Riely’s parents: “This a very tragic loss of life and I appreciate how difficult it must be for you, hopefully this will help you get some closure.”
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