St Albans woman, 59, probably died of hypothermia

PUBLISHED: 16:20 14 May 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 May 2010

A RECLUSIVE woman from St Albans who passed away last winter may have died from hypothermia, an inquest heard today (Thursday). Jean Dale, aged 59, was discovered under a make-shift newspaper blanket in the back room of her Willow Way home by police and a

A RECLUSIVE woman from St Albans who passed away last winter may have died from hypothermia, an inquest heard today (Thursday).

Jean Dale, aged 59, was discovered under a make-shift newspaper blanket in the back room of her Willow Way home by police and a social worker on the afternoon of December 9.

Ms Dale, who lived in St Albans for most of her life, was referred to the community mental health team in St Albans in 2004 by her concerned brother Peter Dale, who said at the inquest that Jean's behaviour had deteriorated ever since their mother's death in the late 1990s.

Coroner Graham Danbury noted that Ms Dale "cut herself off from friends and family" and Miranda Philips, her social worker, said that Ms Dale often refused people entry into her home.

Said Ms Philips of her most recent visit to Ms Dale's home last May: "She was suspicious and nervous throughout my stay but she was capable of holding a conversation and it seemed clear that she was no danger to herself or others."

But in December staff at Ms Dale's local garden centre, which she regularly frequented, alerted Ms Philips to the fact that Ms Dale hadn't visited for ages and the next day Ms Philips and a policeman went round to check on her.

After having received no answer at the front door, the pair went around the back where they saw Ms Dale's body under some newspaper in the back room which overlooked the garden. A GP confirmed the death later that day.

Ms Philips said at the inquest that the house was freezing cold and there didn't appear to be any heating on. Dr Alan Rubin said that his post-mortem exam didn't reveal anything that could explain Ms Dale's death and surmised that, because of the temperature in her house, hypothermia may have been the cause of death.

Because the evidence was inconclusive, Mr Danbury recorded an open verdict although agreed that the probable cause of death was hypothermia.

Said Mr Danbury of Ms Dale: "She was a spirited and determined lady who increasingly cut herself off from society and steadfastly refused various offers of help. She clearly valued her privacy and felt that she could manage on her own; unfortunately that wasn't the case.


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