Double tragedy of Wheathampstead mother and disabled daughter

A SEVERELY disabled young woman died because she was unable to care for herself after her devoted mother died suddenly, an inquest heard on Friday.

Stefania Wolf, 67, and her 29-year-old daughter Samantha Backler, were discovered in their home in Marford Road, Wheathampstead, on July 31 last year.

Samantha, who was wheelchair-bound and communicated by pointing, was left trapped at home when her mother didn’t wake up and her “horrendous” death was probably due to a seizure, lack of medication or dehydration.

Their bodies may have lain there for almost three weeks before they were discovered and were so badly decomposed that a pathologist could not ascertain the exact cause of their deaths.

Assistant deputy coroner Dr Frances Cranfield recorded that Mrs Wolf died of natural causes and entries made in her diary just days prior to their last-known appearance reveal that she had been suffering from excruciating head, chest and arm pain.

The entries, written in her native Polish, reveal that Mrs Wolf had been in chronic pain which had left her weak during the early part of July.

Mother and daughter were last seen on July 12 in Wheathampstead by a neighbour.

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Dr Cranfield recorded a narrative verdict for Samantha and said she died because she was unable to look after herself following the death of her mother.

The tragic discovery of their bodies was made after leaflet distributor, Paul Mazzareillo, raised the alarm.

Mr Mazzareillo had been delivering leaflets when his colleague called him over to Mrs Wolf’s home where scores of flies were buzzing against the window.

In a statement read out by the coroner, Mr Mazzareillo described how after lifting the letter box and detecting an overwhelming smell, like meat, he became quite concerned that somebody had died inside.

He alerted the police who discovered the bodies.

The inquest heard how Mrs Wolf had dedicated her life to caring for Samantha, who was starved of oxygen at birth and suffered from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and heart problems.

Samantha was taken into care for a brief period in 1998 when Mrs Wolf suffered from depression and a psychotic episode but her health improved considerably and in 2002 she finished her last course of anti-depressants.

She cared for Samantha full time and resisted repeated efforts by adult care services to offer support and respite care.

Their GP Dr Deborah Gilham became their point of contact, meeting with them at regular intervals to check on Samantha’s health and well-being as well as that of Mrs Wolf.

Dr Gilham said that each time she saw them, Samantha was very well looked after and Mrs Wolf reiterated that she didn’t want any support from any outside agency.

She said: “I was left in no doubt at the end of the meeting that she didn’t want any of those things offered.”

Dr Gilham saw Mrs Wolf and Samantha for the last time on June 7 last year when Mrs Wolf said she was coping well. She once more declined any offer of support.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs Wolf’s daughter Karina Jones said she had received some closure and understanding from the verdicts but she wanted to ensure that what happened to her sister never happened to anybody else.

She said: “I don’t want anyone to suffer the way Samantha did in her last days.

“It’s very clear from today that my mother was a dedicated and caring mother to Sam. Being very proud, she refused help.

“I don’t blame anyone for what happened. I will always love them and my mother’s dedication and care will be an example to me.”

She described her step-sister Sam as a fun-loving and capable girl who she had adored.