Family unsatisfied with police investigation after mother suffered drug-related death

A mum of three suffered a drug-related death due to the combination of her medication and Oramorph, a painkiller containing morphine, which together caused fatal respiratory depression.

Rebecca Lennox, 36, of Caxton Court in Lynn – known as Becky – was found dead at her home on December 9 last year.

An inquest into her death was held in Norwich on Wednesday which ruled out suicide, but left questions still unanswered as to exactly how Becky came to her death.

The Norfolk Coroner’s Court at County Hall, Norwich
The Norfolk Coroner’s Court at County Hall, Norwich

Coroner Christopher Leach heard from family members attending the inquest who were not satisfied with the investigation carried out by Norfolk Police.

Mr Leach gave a conclusion that Becky’s death was drug-related, but family members questioned how she came to take the morphine and disputed some evidence around the time of her passing.

Her mother, Julie Lennox, said in evidence: “We all knew Becky would not have taken morphine.”

Those issues do not fall under the remit of the coroner, whose role is to form a conclusion based on available evidence, and the family stated they would be holding further discussions with the police.

After the hearing, a statement issued by Norfolk Police said: “Officers have conducted a thorough investigation. This included forensic analysis of mobile devices, house-to-house enquiries and statements obtained from friends and family. No evidence was found to suggest any suspicious circumstances.

“A file was prepared for the coroner ahead of this inquest as is standard procedure.”

The post mortem examination found Becky had died from respiratory depression due to morphine and pregabalin toxicity, with a secondary cause of alcoholic liver disease.

The toxicology report found the levels of the drugs in her system were “consistent with therapeutic use only”.

The coroner ruled out suicide after hearing evidence from Dr Chris McKenzie, from the Southgates Medical Centre on Goodwins Road, Lynn, who said medical investigations found no evidence Becky took a deliberate overdose.

Dr McKenzie said Becky had “a tragic life” after experiencing the loss of her own father to suicide at an early age – something her family said made Becky strongly opposed to suicide.

Because of this, she required support dealing with alcoholism and depression, the hearing heard.

The day she died, Becky, who also suffered with chronic pain, had been found at around 3.30pm unresponsive on the sofa in her living room.

Ambulance crews attended and pronounced her dead, but neither police or doctors were able to state the exact time of her death.

The inquest heard police evidence from Becky’s partner John Mcdonnell – known as Paddy – who said Becky was alive when he left the house in the morning.

Becky slept on the sofa due to her pain-related issues, and Mr Mcdonnell said she was still sleeping when he came downstairs in the morning and left.

Mr Mcdonnell had told police Becky had obtained the Oramorph from someone known as PP and he had warned her about how strong it was.

Mr Mcdonnell, who was also Becky’s carer, said the night before Becky died he had given her a cupful after she asked for some, but he had then hidden the bottle.

Becky’s mother Julie Lennox told the hearing the family believed Becky had died overnight as she had uncharacteristically failed to respond to messages the following morning and, when police arrived at her home, her television was turned off, while usually it was always on during the day.

While the family suggested someone else had given Becky the Oramorph, which they claimed had been obtained from a drug dealer, Mr Leach said the evidence was not there for him to consider a verdict of unlawful killing.

The inquest also heard from neighbour Jade Webster, who described Becky as “the best neighbour I’ve ever had” who showed her many acts of kindness.

Ms Webster described Becky and Mr Mcdonnell as having loved each other.

“Becky made it very clear to me that she loved Paddy and he would make the same comments to me about her,” said Ms Webster.

Julie Lennox said that in the week leading up to her death, her daughter was feeling positive about the future.

She said Becky had struggled for the last few years of her life but added: “That’s not the person she was.”

She said growing up, her daughter had been “a quiet little girl, quite shy but happy”.

As a teenager Becky had suffered with anxiety but had enjoyed doing normal things that people do when growing up.

Becky went on to have three children of her own and Mrs Lennox said: “Becky loved her children.”

Mrs Lennox said Becky “always saw the good in everyone” but this had led her to form associations with some people who were “not good for her”.

Becky also loved animals and was always taking in strays, and kept a dog for herself which she named Sky.

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