Mother’s delight at fresh investigation into daughter’s death from asthma due to air pollution


A fresh inquest will be held into the death of a nine-year-old girl who had a fatal asthma attack linked by a government scientist to air pollution.

Ella Kissi-Debrah lived 25 yards from the South Circular Road in Forest Hill – and a 2018 report by a the scientist said it was likely unlawful levels of pollution, which were detected at a monitoring station one mile from Ella’s home, contributed to her fatal asthma attack.

The inquest will decide whether Ella will become the first person in the UK for whom air pollution is listed as the cause of death.

Ruling with two other judges that the 2014 conclusions, which concluded Ella’s death was caused by acute respiratory failure and severe asthma, should be quashed, Judge Mark Lucraft said: “In our judgment, the discovery of new evidence makes it necessary in the interests of justice that a fresh inquest be held.”

He said Ella’s family’s lawyers had argued the new evidence demonstrated there was an “arguable failure” by the state to comply with its duties under the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to life.

Her mother, Rosamund, said in a statement on Thursday after the High Court granted the new hearing: “I am absolutely delighted by the ruling and look forward to finally getting the truth about Ella’s death.

Main: Rosamund Kissi-Debrah outside the High Court on Thursday and, inset, Ella

“The past six years of not knowing why my beautiful, bright and bubbly daughter died has been difficult for me and my family, but I hope the new inquest will answer whether air pollution took her away from us.

“If it is proved that pollution killed Ella then the Government will be forced to sit up and take notice that this hidden but deadly killer is cutting short our children’s lives.”

Green Party assembly member Caroline Russell said: “This is welcome news for Ella’s family, who watched her health suffer during high pollution episodes.

They saw for themselves the horrifying link between bad air and severe childhood asthma. “This is about Ella and all the other children living with life-threatening asthma. “This new inquest will allow a better understanding of the role air pollution played in Ella’s death and be a landmark case.

“This could have huge implications for the public bodies, who will no longer be able to escape the consequences of their inaction and it could open them to financial and legal risks.”

Ella dreamed of becoming an air ambulance pilot and was determined not to let her asthma attacks deter her. She wrote to the RAF Air Cadets when she was eight, asking them to lower the age restriction so she could start training early.

The RAF wrote back promising to look into it, and she was still living in hope of fulfilling her ambition when she died the following year, in 2013, following a severe asthma attack.

Her mother buried her in a coffin decorated with images of the Red Arrows, which Ella looked forward to seeing each year at the Eastbourne airshow.

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