Woman found dead after fatal dose of alcohol and prescription drugs

PUBLISHED: 19:26 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 19:29 20 March 2018

The Old Courthouse in Hatfield, where the inquest was held. Picture: JP Asher

The Old Courthouse in Hatfield, where the inquest was held. Picture: JP Asher

Archant

A woman’s death has been categorised as drug and alcohol-related after her body was discovered in “concerning and slightly puzzling” circumstances.

Jennifer Collins, 42, was found dead in woodland behind Burnham Green Village Hall – around half-a-mile from her home – with grazes and bruises on her head, arms, stomach and legs.

The civil servant, who was born in WGC and lived in White Horse Lane, was reported missing to police after she failed to return home during the evening of Saturday, May 27 last year.

Ms Collins’ boyfriend eventually discovered her body in a “ditch” during the early hours of May 29, with her belongings scattered the other side of a large barbed wire fence.

Police officers then set up a crime scene, but concluded that there was no suggestion of third party involvement.

Coroner Geoffrey Sullivan described the scene as “unusual”, “concerning and slightly puzzling”, and pressed police detectives on what they thought might have happened.

Detective Sergeant Lee Waller said: “From what I can see I do not believe that Jennifer has climbed over [the fence].

“My view would be that she has lost her balance and has fallen and has gone underneath the barbed wire, and that’s how she has come to be in the gully area.

“Where you have the line of barbed wire the ground does fall away quite dramatically.”

The court heard that Ms Collins suffered with “chronic alcoholism” and also took prescription medication.

That combination, according to the doctor responsible for her postmortem, led to her suffering cardiorespiratory arrest.

The police detectives added that Ms Collins’ injuries were consistent with someone who had fallen over, perhaps several times, and toxicology reports confirmed she had been drunk.

Assessing the evidence, the coroner said: “I think it’s likely she took the pills and drink, and the combination caused her death.

“Whether she did so with the intention of bringing about the end of her life, that’s certainly a possibility, but based on the evidence I have I’m not in a position to say that I’m sure that’s what she did and that was her intention.

“To my mind it’s just as likely that she was reckless to the effects of what the combination of drugs and alcohol might do.”

He subsequently categorised the incident as a drug and alcohol-related death.

Ms Collins was described as a “vibrant” person who liked gardening, reading and long walks in the countryside.

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