Assault victim died from drink rather than injuries, coroner rules

A woman who died a month after a violent assault from her partner passed away from alcohol intoxication rather than from her injuries, a coroner has ruled this week.

Thursday, 8th November 2018, 9:13 am
Updated Thursday, 8th November 2018, 9:14 am
Wakefield Coroners' Court

Claire Gillis, 38, was found dead in bed just hours after moving into a support hostel in December 2016.

Toxicology tests showed she had ‘potentially fatal levels’ of alcohol in her system - almost four-and-a-half times over the drink drive limit - as well as therapeutic levels of prescription drugs.

However, only a month before she had been the victim of a serious drunken assault by her partner at her home on Victoria Grove in Lupset.

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She suffered a bleed on the brain and was hospitalised for three weeks.

Her partner, Nathan Butterfield, of Bassenthwaite Walk, Knottingley, was jailed for 10 years earlier this year for causing grievous bodily harm.

The inquest into her death concluded at Wakefield Coroners’ Court this week.

The hearing was told that Mrs Gillis had been heavy drinker for more than 28 years and there were indications that she had been using intravenous drugs when she was assessed in late 2016.

Having been released from hospital after Butterfield’s assault, she was given a flat at a Wakefield Council-run hostel for vulnerable people on December 16.

Moving in late at night, she was found ‘lifeless’ by a support worker on the afternoon of December 17.

CCTV showed she had gone out to withdraw money and bought alcohol from a nearby convenience store earlier in the day.

An empty bottle of vodka and cans of lager were found in her flat. Toxicology tests showed she had 364 mlgs of alcohol 100 mls of blood.

Giving evidence, forensic pathologist Michael Parsons said the amount of alcohol was consistent with death, added to which were levels of drugs, including opioid pain relief drug oxycodone and the sedative lorazepam.

He said that there were clear signs of healing injuries from the sustained attack a month earlier, but it was not a factor in her death.

An investigation by police also found there was no foul play.

Addressing the issue, Senior Coroner, Kevin McLoughlin, said: “We have heard from an authoritative source that there is no concern.

“Most of the injuries look as though they were resolving and some weeks old.

“There’s clear blue water between the assault and what happened on December 17.”

He concluded by recording a narrative verdict.