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The Birmingham Mail
By Jane Tyler
A three-year-old daughter who found her mum dead in bed has been told she is ‘the brightest star in sky’, her Birmingham grandfather has revealed.
Phoebe Rushton discovered the body of her single mum, Nicolla Rushton, aged 30, but then made her own breakfast and even walked to nursery by herself.
The alarm was raised after the frightened toddler was found wandering the streets near her home in Burton-on-Trent by an off-duty police officer and his wife.
Nicolla grew up in Acocks Green and her dad, James Rushton, and paternal grandmother still live there, in Dudley Park Road.
Mr Rushton has set up a GoFundMe campaign to try and raise £5,000 which will be put into a high-interest savings account for Phoebe for when she turns 18.
Speaking for the first time about the tragedy, he said although Nicolla and Phoebe were living in Burton-on-Trent, he saw them regularly.
James Rushton, the father of Nicolla Rushton.
“Nikki used to come down and see me every week and I saw them loads and was very close to them,” he said.
The funeral was held in Burton last Wednesday and Mr Rushton said it was packed out with Nicolla’s friends.
Her cause of death remains a mystery, with a post mortem examination being inconclusive and now toxicology tests are being carried out.
“Nikki had lots of illnesses and suffered from depression and anxiety and was on lots of medication and tablets, but her death is still sudden and a shock,” he said.
He said Phoebe was now living with his ex-wife, Stacey Inchley in Burton, and “coping as well as could be expected” by her mother’s death.
“She doesn’t exactly know what’s going on because she’s only three,” he said.
“We’re keeping her routine as normal as possible, so she’s going to nursery every day.
“She’s been told by social workers and police that her mum is now the brightest star in the sky but won’t be coming back because she’s an angel.
“So she’s coping as well as she can, as well as can be expected.”
But he said the death had taken its toll on the rest of the family.
Nicolla had a brother, Anthony, aged 24, and Mr Rushton also has two other children from another relationship.
“I’ve been to see my GP and he’d heard about what happened because there’s been so much publicity and he’s put me on anti-depressants,” he said.
Mr Rushton, who doesn’t work due to long-standing medical conditions, said his way of coping was to channel all his efforts into raising money for Phoebe’s future.
“We set up the GoFundMe campaign and that currently stands at just under £2,700,” he said.
“Donations have come in from all around the world – Africa, the United States and Australia.
“Some people just sent £5, but that’s fine, any amount counts and goes towards the £5,000 we’d like to raise.”
He said the money would go towards driving lessons for Phoebe when she’s older, or towards her education.
When Phoebe discovered the body of her mum on January 6, she tried to make her own breakfast and then walked to nursery where she bumped into the off-duty police officer and his wife.
She told them that she “couldn’t wake mummy up” and they followed her home and found Miss Rushton.
Police are not treating the death as suspicious.