Lethal cocktail of drugs results in St Albans woman’s death

Hatfield Coroner's Court

Hatfield Coroner's Court - Credit: Archant

A woman coping with severe pain died after accidentally taking too many drugs to alleviate her suffering, a county coroner has ruled this week.

Police were called to Claire Lee’s Newgate Close home in St Albans when a taxi driver alerted them after he knocked on her door and did not receive a reply, which was out of character.

The taxi driver used to regularly take her to the chemist to pick up her methadone prescription.

She was known to Spectrum, a Herts drug and alcohol recovery service, and had previously admitted smoking drugs most days and was also sporadically using crack cocaine.

PC James Irlen, who found the 51 year old, found Claire lying on the bed on her back with her eyes closed and making a loud snoring noise.

She was breathing heavily but was unresponsive to his attempts to rouse her.

An ambulance was requested but this had to be chased up as she began to worsen.

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By the time the ambulance arrived her pulse was very faint and her breathing was shallow.

PC Irlen noted that her flat was extremely dirty and there was drug paraphernalia lying around which included foil, syringes and bent spoons and a small amount of herbal cannabis.

Herts coroner Edward Thomas said Claire had been complaining of chest pain and had been admitted to the emergency department at the QE2 hospital back in May, which may have been for a fractured rib.

A post mortem examination revealed high levels of codeine and tramadol.

There was also evidence of methadone in her system which was in a therapeutic range, but one that could be toxic to somebody not used to taking it.

But the amount of dihydrocodeine, which is used to relieve moderate to severe pain, was in a range that could be lethal.

Mr Thomas said there were no injuries to her body that would have caused her death but it was noted she had self harm marks.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, he explained: “There was a problem with her ribs; she was in and out of hospital and therefore nothing was found to indicate any intention to take her own life.”

He added: “The overdose was a result of taking far too much to relieve the pain she was clearly suffering from.”