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Death was an accident, says coroner

PUBLISHED: 14:38 23 February 2002 | UPDATED: 11:24 03 March 2010

SHE had rescued her alcoholic mother from accidental overdoses before, but it was too late when Anna Pipe arrived home and went upstairs to find her dead.

SHE had rescued her alcoholic mother from accidental overdoses before, but it was too late when Anna Pipe arrived home and went upstairs to find her dead.

Anna, of Lacey Street, told an inquest at County Hall that her mother, Marion Pipe, had suffered from alcoholism for years, with sober periods lasting for five and two years before she died in October last year.

But she added: "Last summer she began drinking quite heavily again. She suffered from depression most of her life.

"We had a very good, close relationship but there were times when she began to get down. When she started drinking the depression would come back."

She told the court that Marion, a London-born civil servant, had tried to commit suicide 'a number of times.'

On October 29, the day the 45-year-old died, Anna said there had been no sign of anything wrong.

"We talked about stuff. I woke up in my normal grouchy mood but she talked to me when I was in the bath, asking me what time I'd be home, and said she'd have some food ready for me.

"She seemed fine, and she certainly wasn't in a depressed state. I can normally tell when something's coming."

Anna said she returned home from work and shopping with her boyfriend an hour later than planned.

After starting to get a meal ready, she ran upstairs to find her mother apparently sitting on the bed, bending over as if to pull out a drawer.

Anna said: "I then saw her head was tilted down and her nose and mouth were blocked by food. Her face had gone puffy as it sometimes does because of her medication.

"I felt for a pulse, but couldn't find one. I've had that happen before when I'm panicking, but this time I was concerned because she had been sick, and I called for an ambulance."

She said: "I didn't think she had taken an overdose because when she did that in the past there were often bottles and packets of empty pills lying around, and there wasn't anything except an empty bottle in the bin, and ten to 15 sleeping tablets still there.

"The last time she did it in May there was a note, and my dad said she always wrote a note and cleared out the medicine cupboard."

Consultant pathologist, Dr Julian Orrell, carried out a postmortem and found food in the larynx, but no evidence of pills in Marion's stomach.

He found she had drunk so much alcohol she would have been two-and-a-half times over the driving limit, and she had vomited and inhaled food.

A toxicology report found she had taken an excess of painkillers and antidepressants which caused the respiratory depression which killed her.

Coroner Dr Peter Dean, said: "The possibility remains that she could have taken the pills at the time her alcohol level was raised."

Anna said her mother had a history of taking overdoses accidentally, and had been found unconscious before, after taking an overdose and being three times over the limit.

She said: "It was a combination of her working shifts, and she never wrote anything down so she wasn't aware of which tablets she had taken. She would wake up in the dark, with the curtains closed, and be quite oblivious to the time of day, and whether it was day or night. Some of the tablets she took had an accumulative effect."

Dr Dean recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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