Police probe death of 'healed' baby

Police are investigating the death of a baby whose family had tried to heal him with prayer.

Four-month-old Caleb Nathaniel Tribble died last Friday, two days after a Northland district health nurse advised his parents to take him to a doctor.

Police have confirmed they are investigating but will not discuss the case. No charges have been laid.

The baby's father, David Tribble, said the family had strong Baptist beliefs and believed in the healing power of God, but were not part of any extremist sect or cult.

He said his father, John, had been trying to heal the baby by laying his hands on him and praying, according to the beliefs of the Auckland-based Liberty Christian Church, to which the family belonged.

However, neither he nor his father completely spurned orthodox medicine.

"Doctors have a place."

John Tribble said he believed Caleb's death was inevitable because of a defect he was born with, which the family had not been aware of.

However, David Tribble was reluctant to talk about the death until he knew the results of the police inquiry and would not say why they had not sought medical treatment earlier.

A plan to take Caleb to the doctor, after the nurse advised it, had been put off twice, first because the family could not get away to make the trip and later because Caleb had stopped vomiting and started eating again so they thought he was getting better.

"He was laughing and giggling and everybody was playing with him. Then Cathy lay him down to have a sleep and he just died. He never woke up."

Last year, Jan and Deborah Moorhead were jailed for five years for the manslaughter of their six-month-old son, Caleb.

Mr Tribble said the families knew each other. Strict vegans and devout Seventh-day Adventists, the Moorheads would not allow Caleb to be treated for a vitamin deficiency caused by his mother's diet.

Mr Tribble said there was no comparison between the Moorheads' beliefs and his own Baptist faith, which had no such restrictions.

"Just so everybody in the world knows, I don't put my faith in a cabbage or turnip or anything like that. They put their faith in herbs or vegetables. I put my faith directly in the Holy Spirit."

John Tribble said he had used the power of God to heal people who went to him for help.

"Some have been healed and some haven't, but don't ask me why."

At various times, he had used prayer to help heal all the Tribble children of varying ailments.

"I've got nothing against doctors. I've never told anybody not to go to the doctor or take medicine. ... Doctors do a wonderful job for people who have got any faith."

At the family's isolated home in the Mangakahia Forest, Caleb's seven siblings, all aged under 9 and home-schooled, were playing.

David Tribble said the children had struggled with Caleb's death and funeral on Monday.

He discussed the children's health needs with his wife, Cathy, but the final decision was his.

"I've got no qualms over the authorities or what they are going to do. I will stand by my decisions.

"I've done lots of things wrong, but whether I did anything wrong over Caleb, I'll find that out on Judgment Day."

Northland Health spokeswoman Alison Lees said she could not comment on the case because it was under police investigation and could be subject to court proceedings or an inquest.