THE inquest into the death of a newborn baby who was found buried in the woods has been described as “one of the most difficult, distressing and emotive cases ever heard in a coroner’s court.”

Baby Pearl, who was given her name by detectives, was discovered by dog walkers, buried and naked on a steep embankment in Bluebell Wood, Heywood.

A member of the extended family has called for Baby Pearl to be remembered and treasured, stating that “Pearl would have been loved, spoilt and adored.”

An inquest into her death has identified her parents as Shane Hutchinson, aged 48, and his former partner Leah Howarth, aged 33.

Senior coroner for Manchester North Joanne Kearsley said that determining the identity of this baby girl was “crucial to all involved” in the investigation.

She said: “Until today, neither Ms Howarth nor Mr Hutchinson had accepted their parentage of Pearl. They do so now in the light of the DNA.”

Two DNA tests were carried out, followed by further investigations by King’s College London, which found that it was more than one billion times more likely that Ms Howarth and Mr Hutchinson were the biological parents of Baby Pearl rather than two other individuals.

Pearl was given her name, which means precious, by the detectives who cared for her. The full name on her death certificate will read Pearl Howarth Hutchinson.

The inquest heard that Pearl was delivered on Christmas Day 2017 by Ms Howarth in a caravan off George Street, Heywood.

No medical assistance was sought at the time and no agencies had any knowledge of her pregnancy.

When asked by the coroner if he could tell her how his daughter came to be in Bluebell Wood, Baby Pearl’s father said: “She [Ms Howarth] is the only person who knew about it. It was her. If I had been 10 or 15 minutes earlier I probably would have caught her in the act. There was no sign of a baby.

“To my knowledge she was not even pregnant. She did not look it. She put no weight on. She was meant to be on the pill.”

When asked when he found out Ms Howarth was pregnant, he said: “Christmas Day. Christmas afternoon. I had no knowledge when I left her at 11am. I went to put flowers on my mum’s grave. When I came back there was blood all over.”

He said Ms Howarth told him she had had a miscarriage.

When asked by the coroner when she found out she was pregnant, Ms Howarth responded: “When I started bleeding. I had a miscarriage. At least, that is what I thought it was. All of a sudden I started bleeding. Then I kept slipping in and out of consciousness. I do not remember much at all.”

The coroner said: “We are going to hear evidence about Pearl and about how developed she was. You will hear that she was between 32 and 40 weeks old. Given that information, do you recall, in fact, on Christmas Day morning, giving birth?”

She replied: “I have never seen her face. I do not know what she looked like. I did not even know that I had had a baby until DNA tests. I never saw a baby, just blood and blood clots.

“I did not know there was a baby until I was arrested.

“Obviously I gave birth to her on Christmas Day, but I did not know that I had.”

In July last year, both parents were arrested on suspicion of murder, concealing a birth and preventing a lawful burial.

However the Crown Prosecution Service found "insufficient evidence" to prosecute.

Pearl’s body was discovered by two women as they were walking their dogs at about 7am on April 4, 2018.

Paramedics, specialist investigators, a paediatrician and coroner were then called to the site.

The police received 16 calls to their dedicated phone line about the incident.

Det Insp Wesley Knights described the case as an “exceptionally emotional investigation for the team.”

The coroner praised Greater Manchester Police for their "hard work and determination" during the investigation, stating that they had done "a tremendous job in difficult circumstances to identify the baby and try to bring closure."

Recording a narrative conclusion, Ms Kearsley said: “Pearl was between 32 and 40 weeks’ gestation, and was a viable pregnancy.

“Her delivery was concealed and she was stored in an unknown place until April 4, 2018, when she was found in Bluebell Wood.

“The investigation has not been able to determine where she was kept between December 2017 and April 2018.

“Due to decomposition, it could not be determined whether Pearl was stillborn or whether she had taken a breath and died.”

A member of the extended family, who we cannot name for legal reasons, has offered a resting place for Baby Pearl.

The family member, aged 59, said: “Pearl is a child who would have been loved, spoilt and adored.

“I want her to know that she is with people who will look after the grave, remember her on her birthday, remember her on special occasions.

“I do not want her to be known as a throw-away baby – as someone who has just been discarded and no one cared about.”