The parents of a baby girl who died at just three months old have spoken of their heartbreak at the loss of their precious daughter - and how they hope her short life will help save the lives of others.

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Little Evy Rose Harding, from Heartsease, was born on October 10 last year and had been a perfectly healthy baby until January 8 when her mother Hayley Lea awoke to find her daughter had stopped breathing.

Evy Rose’s pink princess-themed money box – which had been meant to help save for Evy Rose’s future – was instead used for a special collection to raise funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance during her funeral.

And Miss Lea, 29, and her partner Stephen Harding, 46, have allowed samples from their daughter to be kept for medical research into the condition which took her away from them.

Miss Lea said they wanted to make sure their daughter’s name lived on by playing part in helping others and raising awareness of sudden infant death syndrome.

“It is just not fair how a child so sweet and innocent can just be taken away. It breaks my heart,” Miss Lea said.

“She was a lovely baby. I used to call her little chub-chub because she had chubby cheeks, and she used to really snuggle into me.

“She was really placid and quiet. She used to love having a bath with Niko (her two-year-old big brother) and I.”

She explained: “Evy Rose had her feed at 4.30am and Niko had woken up at the same time.

“I fed her and winded her, and she looked in my eyes for the very last time.

“We went to sleep, and then my body clock woke me up at 10am because that’s when she would usually feed. I just knew there was something wrong - and she was cold and not breathing.”

Mr Harding, who is trained in CPR, tried to resuscitate their daughter before paramedics and an air ambulance crew arrived, but Evy Rose died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Miss Lea paid tribute to everyone who tried to help, and said she was especially proud of how Mr Harding kept calm and fought to save their daughter.

“I want people to know how well Stephen coped, and also give a great big thanks to everyone who has supported us, to the paramedics, the air ambulance and the hospital staff. They all did their best,” she said.

Mr Harding, who said he hoped Evy Rose was now having sweet dreams and has had his daughter’s footprint tattooed on his chest next to an angel, said both he and Miss Lea were determined the memory of their daughter would live on and help others.

They took their daughter’s money box to the air ambulance headquarters this week when it was opened and the donations counted. £746.07 was raised, and this will be remembered in a special plaque bearing Evy Rose’s name displayed at Gangsters Barbers and ET Tattoo Studio in Heartsease.

“All the medical services did their best to save Evy Rose and this is our way of saying thank you,” said Mr Harding, who used to run Hardy’s Convenience Store, in Heartsease, and Steve’s Convenience Store, in Heathgate, where he also used to fundraise for the air ambulance.

He said what happened to his daughter also showed how important it was that people were trained in CPR, and that he hoped his daughter would also be helping to save other babies in the future because he and Miss Lea had chosen to let medical specialists keep for future research samples taken from Evy Rose during a post-mortem examination.

Miss Lea said she felt it was especially important people were made more aware of sudden infant death syndrome.

She said: “When you are pregnant nobody talks about things like this happening. You never think this could happen to your child, but it did. Evy Rose was perfectly healthy and it happened to her, and so I want to make people more aware that it could happen to anyone.”

• Would you like to pay tribute to somebody? Email reporter Emma Knights at emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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