Self harm and overdoses were “cry for help”

Date: Friday 28th November 2008

Misadventure verdict on woman found dead in bed

CUMBRIAN coroner John Taylor recorded a verdict of misadventure at the inquest of a 49-year-old woman who was found dead in bed at her home in Applethwaite.

Catherine Rosemary Cook, of South Col, Applethwaite Country House, died on 4th August.

An inquest, held in Workington on Tuesday, heard that Mrs. Cook was diagnosed with anxious depression in 2006, when she lived in Spain with her long term partner Keith Harlow.

In a statement, read at the inquest, Mr. Harlow, of Clophill, Bedfordshire, said the depression began after the death of her much loved dog in an accident at the villa they shared.

She was given medication in Spain, but took an overdose in December, 2006. Following her recovery the couple moved back to their home in Bedfordshire.

She took a second overdose and spent some time in both public and private clinics, where Mr. Harlow said he believed she was “over medicated”.

He said in his statement that Mrs. Cook needed 24-hour care and moved her to her parents’ home in Applethwaite.

She seemed to be getting better, and was reducing the amount of prescribed drugs she was taking. She went to a private hospital for four weeks before returning to Cumbria.

However, several episodes of self harm took place and and Mrs. Cook took another overdose of 65 paracetamol before she was admitted to the Carleton Clinic, Carlisle, for treatment this year.

Mr. Harlow told the inquest the self harm and overdoses were just cries for help.

Her medication was strictly controlled, but on 25th July she grabbed a bottle of medication from her father and took six tablets. She was admitted to hospital and kept in overnight.

On the day before her death Mrs. Cook went for a walk in Keswick with her partner. When they returned home she said she was going for a lie down. She was found some time later slumped on the bed, having drunk two-thirds of a bottle of Bacardi.

In his statement Mr. Harlow said: “This was nothing new. She would drink with her medication when she wanted to get out of herself for a day.”

The family rang Cuedoc and were told to check her blood pressure and pulse, which were normal. She was checked a number of times in the evening, the last time being at 2am, just before Mr. Harlow went to sleep.

He awoke at 3-30am and found his partner face down on the pillow and not breathing.

Mrs. Cook’s mother, Rosemary Healey, arrived and she began heart compressions and an ambulance was called.

In a statement, paramedic David Watt said when he arrived he found Mrs. Cook in the recovery position, but there were no signs of life. She was unresponsive with no cardiac activity and there was nothing more that could be done.

Mr. Taylor told the inquest that Mrs. Cook died from the aspiration of gastric contents caused by the toxic effects of a mix of prescription drugs made worse by high levels of alcohol.