Budleigh woman died from drug and drink mixture

PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 October 2015

County Hall in Exeter.

County Hall in Exeter.


A lethal mixture of alcohol and medication caused the death of a Budleigh Salterton pensioner, an inquest heard.

Valerie Griffith, 78, of Honey Park Road, was found dead in her bedroom by the police at around 8pm on March 30, 2015.

A post mortem report gave a cause of death as central nervous depression caused by alcohol and medicinal drug ingestion.

A toxicology report stated Mrs Griffith’s levels of painkillers in her blood, such as codeine, were consistent with ‘chronic therapeutic’ use. The level of alcohol recorded was just over the UK legal drink-drive limit.

Assistant coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon John Tomlin gave a conclusion of misadventure.

He said there was not enough evidence of an attempted suicide.

Mr Tomlin said: “There is no evidence to suggest that someone else was present when the medication was taken and we have heard that sometimes she could become confused.

“But I am satisfied that when she took the medication, she took it herself voluntarily.

“I am of the view that, having ingested this medication, I don’t think it was a deliberate attempt to take her life.

“I think the correct conclusion to make is one of misadventure.”

The inquest heard how Mrs Griffith, a retired nurse, lived in Budleigh with her husband, Harold, and spent their winters in Portugal.

When they were away, their neighbour, Brian Goddard, used to look after their property.

In the week leading up to Mrs Griffith’s death, Mr Goddard noticed there appeared to be someone in her house.

When he rang the doorbell, Mrs Griffith answered, telling him the couple had returned from Portugal early due to her husband’s illness.

On the day of Mrs Griffith’s death, Mr Goddard received a visit from PC Steve Vincent. The officer asked Mr Goddard to help him get into Mrs Griffith’s house.

PC Vincent had been asked to attend after Mrs Griffith’s daughter, Amanda Hawkins, phoned the emergency services, saying she had tried to ring her mother ‘18 times’.

An ambulance was called and Mrs Griffith was pronounced dead at the scene.

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