Terrible accident must be a warning to all parents says Judy

Monday 18 May 2015

Credit: Twitter/@Daily_Express

This week Strictly co-presenter Claudia Winkleman talked to the BBC’s Watchdog programme about the horrific Halloween accident that left her little girl badly burned.

Eight-year old Matilda was dressed by her mum in a wicked witch costume bought from a supermarket.

Crowding on to a narrow London doorstep, trick or treating with Claudia and nine other children, Matilda’s costume caught fire when it brushed against a naked flame.

A neighbour who tried to put the flames out with his bare hands suffered second degree burns himself.

Poor Matilda was hospitalised and Claudia was utterly traumatised. I saw her recently and she told me the family is going to Scandinavia for their summer holiday, as Matilda cannot now go out in the sun.

Watchdog’s point of concern was the standard of safety testing on children’s fancy dress costumes sold on the high street.

They said their experiments into flammability had produced “shocking results”. Matilda’s costume kept re-igniting after the flames had been put out.

Claudia said watching this horrible spectacle had reminded her of the birthday cake candles that light up again every time they’re blown out.

Our kids have long grown up, but trick or treating on Halloween wearing witch or skeleton costumes was always a source of great fun and merriment when they were small.

We still encourage little ones to ring our doorbell on October 31, keeping a huge bowl of chocolates and sweeties on the hall table.

We will keep right on doing that, but there’s one thing we’ll never do again.

Every year we decorate our house with “spooky” objects, and of course pumpkins, carved into scary faces and lit with tea-lights from within.

Like many of our neighbours we line pumpkins up on our front steps.

It’s a signal to local children and their parents that we are a Halloween-friendly home.

But I will never put a candlelit pumpkin on my doorstep again.

The thought of what happened to Matilda because she brushed against a naked flame has made me realise how risky it is and how astonishingly lucky we’ve been over the years never to have such a terrible accident at our house.

So those with young children must make sure their kids are dressed in safe costumes, not the flimsy supermarket rubbish that could have killed Matilda.

(Although experts say it’s impossible to create completely fireproof clothes – cheap Polyester is fire-resistant, but it tends to melt and stick to the skin, which is what happened to Matilda.)

Therefore the onus is really on us, the adults cheerfully decking out our houses with pumpkins, to make sure there are no lit candles around.

They may look marvellously atmospheric, but anywhere near a child they can cause death. Claudia’s Watchdog warning is very welcome.

Read Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express in full here.
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