Woman (52) died in ‘tragic accident’

Burnley Magistrates Court.
Burnley Magistrates Court.
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A coroner has concluded a woman died in “a desperately tragic set of circumstances” as she tried to free herself from a locked stable block.

East Lancashire Assistant Coroner Mark Williams concluded that Fiona Watson (52) died accidentally when she tried to get out of the tack room within the stables in Old Stone Trough Lane, Kelbrook, on October 24th last year.

The inquest at Burnley Coroner’s Court heard that her head had become stuck between the top of a partition wall and the roofline and that she died from hanging.

Mrs Watson and her husband Michael, a childhood friend who she married in September 2013, had been playing scrabble together on a normal Saturday afternoon, the hearing was told, and had each had a couple of glasses of whisky in the tack room.

Mr Watson then headed back to the caravan the couple were living in temporarily with their three dogs leaving Mrs Watson to put the horses away and join him later.

However, the inquest heard that Mr Watson inadvertently locked the top door to the tack room which could only be done from the outside.

She sent two messages to Mr Watson’s phone, the first at 5-52pm saying “You’ve locked me in x” and another at 5-56pm saying “You available? Locked me in”. However, Mr Watson had forgotten his phone which was in the tack room.

An emotional Mr Watson, who had been arrested by police on suspicion of murder in the immediate after math of his wife’s death before being released without charge, said he didn’t remember locking the top bolt.

He said: “I must have put the top bolt on when I was tending to the dogs. Normally I just bolt the bottom door.”

The inquest heard that Mrs Watson then mostly likely attempted to balance a three legged stool on the sofa in the tack room to climb out of it and over the top of a partition wall into the stables next door which the hearing heard were never locked.

Mr Williams described the escape method as “very precarious” but Mr Watson said his wife had told him she had managed to do that once before.

Mr Watson returned to the stables sometime between 7pm and 7-30pm when he found his wife. He freed her, dialled 999 and attempted CPR before the ambulance and police arrived.

Pathologist Dr Muammer Al-Mudhaffer told the hearing that Mrs Watson had a small mark on her neck and a graze between her eyebrow and nose.

He had found no fractured bones in Mrs Watson’s neck but had suffered fractured ribs and sternum during CPR. She had 194mg of alcohol per decilitre of blood, the drink drive limit being 80mg.

Dr Al-Mudhaffer said the most likely cause of her death was hanging and in his opinion, Mrs Watson’s death would have been very sudden, with the compression of the vagus nerve rapidly slowing her heart rate.