‘Anti-social behaviour’ linked to St Albans woman’s death

A HEARTBROKEN family holds housing bosses partly responsible for the death of their relative who accidentally consumed a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol to cope with anti-social behaviour outside her St Albans council flat.

The family’s accusations come after an inquest was held last Wednesday into the death of 58-year-old secretary Christine Barrett, who died at her home in Bardwell Court on July 19.

An inquest heard Ms Barrett had stopped breathing after she mixed a high amount of alcohol with her normal dose of painkillers, which she was taking for her back problems.

Ms Barrett’s doctor, Dr Xanthe Cross, who was present at the inquest, said she had admitted she was drinking at night because noisy neighbours were preventing her from sleeping.

The inquest was also told she was looking to move out of her flat, and in addition to her painkillers had been prescribed medication for anxiety and depression.

Coroner Edward Thomas, who recorded an accidental death, said on the night of her death she had consumed more than twice the amount of alcohol legally permitted to drive and that, combined with the painkillers, had affected her natural instinct to breathe.

Speaking after the inquest her sister, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Ms Barrett has been “suffering” with her living situation for at least five years and hit out at St Albans district council for failing to rehouse her.

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She said: “She was such a houseproud woman but she had given up. She was very frightened living there and she got to the stage where she walked round the corner and didn’t even want to go in the door.

“It [the anti-social behaviour] started to affect not just my sister’s life but I know other people are suffering in that area.”

As well as complaining to the council about the anti-social behaviour, her sister explained that Ms Barrett lived on the second floor and had told housing staff she was struggling to get up the stairs because of the arthritis in her back.

She added: “She sent her medical records to the council but that didn’t help. It was like she was forgotten about.

“The whole family partly blame the council for her death.”

According to the family shortly before her death their relative, whom they described as bubbly and a “lover of life”, was finally assured she would be moved to the top of the housing list.

But in a statement to the Herts Advertiser, Karen Dragovic, head of housing at the council, claimed they had already offered Ms Barrett alternative accommodation earlier this year.

Ms Dragovic said: “We were extremely sad to hear of the accidental death of Christine Barrett. We are aware of anti-social behaviour at Bardwell Court and have been working with residents to take action to deal with this.

“We were also trying to rehouse Christine Barrett and she was offered a move earlier in the year.”