AN ELDERLY woman choked to death after being trapped in cot railings that were there for her safety, an inquest heard.

Ethel Doreen Stobbs, 80, died after getting caught up in the cot railings attached to her bed in May last year.

The hearing was told that Mrs Stobbs, a resident in South Church Nursing Home, near Bishop Auckland, had dementia and had fallen out of bed on several occasions.

Witnesses said she had been re-assessed by social workers in Darlington Memorial Hospital after breaking her thigh and it was recommended that cot railings should be fitted to her bed.

The inquest was told that Mrs Stobbs, who had not been in the home long, seemed to have settled in well.

Vivien Taylor, an assistant care worker at the home, told how she and a colleague helped Mrs Stobbs to bed earlier than usual because the home was short-staffed that day.

She said that she had checked on Mrs Stobbs, who seemed to sleeping soundly, but on a second visit she saw that she had become trapped in the cot railings.

Detective Chief Inspector Bruce Turnbull said that police at first treated Mrs Stubbs' death as suspicious, because the emergency cord in the bedroom was wrapped around the box where she could not reach it, and her bed was described as being an airbed.

He said: "The airbed was actually an airflow mattress and the cord was wrapped around the box to stop her from getting tangled up in it."

He said that the police had found nothing suspicious in their investigations, but said that he felt the advice on cot railings for care homes was inadequate.

South Durham Coroner Colin Penna echoed Det Chief Insp Turnbull's thoughts and said he felt regulations were needed to avoid another tragedy. He recorded an accident verdict on Mrs Stobbs.