Troubled woman found dead in friend’s flat had history of drugs

Debra Cunliffe
Debra Cunliffe
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A troubled woman who was found dead in a friend’s flat in Wigan had consumed a lethal cocktail of alcohol and drugs, an inquest heard.

Bolton Coroner’s Court was told Debra Cunliffe, from Ince, died from a combination of drug and alcohol toxicity.

She had two personalities. When she was sober she was a pleasure to be around but her personality changed for the worse when she was in drink

Philip Edwards

Ms Cunliffe, of De Trafford Drive, had more than two and a half times the legal driving limit of alcohol in her blood and even higher levels in her urine, suggesting she had been drinking heavily.

Pathologist Dr Naveen Sharma also told the court she had morphine, which could only have come from using heroin, in her system at levels which could prove fatal and had also taken cocaine.

Ms Cunliffe’s partner Philip Edwards said he knew the 50-year-old carer had problems with alcohol bingeing and drug use and he had tried to encourage her to seek help. Mr Edwards said: “It went in peaks and troughs. She didn’t know when to stop but then she would stop for a while.

“She also dabbled in drugs. She admitted using cocaine a little bit and I saw injection marks on her arm on occasions.

“I had a friend who died of heroin use years ago so I knew exactly what they were and I discussed it with her.

“She totally denied it but I knew there was nothing else it could be.

“She had two personalities. When she was sober she was a pleasure to be around but her personality changed for the worse when she was in drink. She was getting into scrapes because of alcohol.”

The inquest heard Ms Cunliffe, who was known to many people as Debbie, went into Wigan on March 2 and met a friend, Peter Rosbotham, in the Last Orders pub on Wallgate.

Mr Edwards said he saw her that morning as he left for work at 6.30am and she was unusually deeply asleep. He returned that afternoon to find the house empty and when he phoned her she said she was having a wonderful time and had clearly been drinking.

The court heard Mr Rosbotham and Ms Cunliffe continued drinking in Wigan town centre and then took a taxi back to his Silverdale Avenue flat at around 9pm.

Two friends came over and they continued drinking, though Mr Rosbotham’s statement said he could not remember her taking drugs.

He said he came down the following morning and found her slumped and unconscious on the sofa.

He attempted to wake her but could not and called an ambulance.

Paramedics attended the scene but were unable to revive her and she was pronounced dead.

Neighbour Janine Wastell gave a statement telling how she heard Mr Rosbotham, whose voice she recognised, telling someone to wake up again and again at around 6.30am on Thursday, March 3.

An investigation by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) ruled out any suspicious circumstances or third-party involvement.

Recording a conclusion of a drug and alcohol-related death, assistant coroner Simon Jones said: “What is clear is Debra had a history of drinking alcohol to excess and had in the past taken drugs.

“On this occasion she drank a significant quantity of alcohol and also took heroin.

“These two substances combined to bring about her death.

“I offer my condolences to the family. It is a genuine tragedy when people die at such a young age as a result of alcohol and drugs.”

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Edwards said: “She was irreplaceable, full of life and fun. We miss her a lot.”