Drug death student ‘could have survived’

Charlotte Woodiwiss, from Chapel-en-le-Frith who died after a drink and drugs binge on a Christmas night out.
Charlotte Woodiwiss, from Chapel-en-le-Frith who died after a drink and drugs binge on a Christmas night out.

A coroner criticised the “contempt” shown by the friends of a Chapel-en-le-Frith student who collapsed and died following a drink and drugs binge on a Christmas night out.

Derbyshire Assistant Coroner Paul McCandless said if someone had acted when Charlotte Woodiwiss fell ill she would have had a “realistic” chance of survival.

He said all attempts to get to the truth of the events that led up to the tragedy in December 2012 had been hindered by their evasive behaviour.

The inquest heard Charlotte appeared intoxicated after consuming a cocktail of cocaine, ecstasy and booze on the night out in Buxton with pals.

But it’s believed the 20-year-old later unwittingly took a pill of super strength ecstasy nicknamed “Mitsubishi” which had a toxic effect on her heart and liver.

Charlotte’s death was the first of a spate of deaths during December 2012 when five young people lost their lives in ecstasy-related tragedies. Dale Yates, 18, was found dead at a flat in Buxton two days later.

Initially at least three witnesses said they were concerned because Charlotte was “trashed”. However their stories later changed to play down how worried they were, the inquest heard.

Andrew Nuttall, counsel for Charlotte’s mother Lisa Hallsworth, said her daughter was “not an addict”, but she had voluntarily taken ecstasy and cocaine.

He said at some point she had swallowed a pill “which was almost certainly the Mitsubishi”. The evidence pointed to her taking the “fatal dose” after 4am, he claimed.

Sheldon Hill told his mother Tracey Elwin about his concerns and that he’d texted a friend just before 6am who told him to get Charlotte orange juice to help her “come down”.

Nothing was done until 7.15am when Ms Elwin went to the shop - the ambulance was called half an hour later.

Paramedic Shaun Bardsley, who arrived ten minutes after the 999 call, said he was surprised that signs of rigor mortis were apparent.

Mr McCandless read out statements from friends which spoke of Charlotte sharing at least two ecstasy tablets during the evening of December 21 and taking cocaine in the toilets of the Spa Bar, Buxton.

After taking a taxi back to Chapel, she stopped off at the home shared by Candy Bailey and Anthony Webster on Rowton Grange Road at around 3am.

Some witnesses claimed a bag of pills were being “thrown around” in front of Charlotte and others, but at the inquest none could recall her taking anything there or where the drugs came from.

Ms Elwin said she decided to take Charlotte, who was her son Tyson’s girlfriend, back to their home on Horderns Road after 4am. She claimed Charlotte had been able to walk.

“It was not the first time she had taken drugs. I was not concerned at all or I would have phoned an ambulance straight away,” she said.

Her partner Simon Dornan said they sat talking after returning home. He said Charlotte was resting her head when he noticed her breathing became “heavy” and ten minutes later it stopped.

“I shouted at her and shook her, I tried to sit her up, then I rang the ambulance. If I’d have thought it was needed of course I would have rung it earlier,” he said.

He’d initially told officers Charlotte was in the “worst state” he’d ever seen anyone on drugs and that he should have called for help.

Mr Nuttall told the coroner: “You have encountered, as the police did, many lies, which have not helped anyone to assess what happened on the night Charlotte died.

“It is a particularly tragic case where sadly so little help has been given to the authorities.”

In a report read to the court, forensic expert Professor Robert Forest said he believed Charlotte died after suffering hyperpyrexia syndrome, when the body temperature rises rapidly, as a result of the use of drugs.

Another expert forensic pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton said the evidence could point to Charlotte having died hours before, but other factors including the drugs she had taken, meant he could not say for certain.

Traces of the substance PMA, which was linked to the other deaths, were found in her system, along with MDMA, the main ingredient in ecstasy, as well as cocaine.

The cause of death was given as the fatally toxic effect of the drugs on Charlotte’s heart and liver.

Mr McCandless said what appeared to be concerns for their friend in the immediate aftermath of her death soon “disappeared into thin air” as most tried to play down how poorly Charlotte had been.

“I was appalled by the general attitude of many of the people who gave evidence and their supporters,” he added.

“They appeared to have a pervasive contempt for my inquiry. They all knew a great deal more, but many here undoubtedly chose to be economical with the truth.”

Although he couldn’t say for certain if Charlotte was dead by the time 999 was dialled it was possible she had passed away some time before the ambulance was called.

Giving his conclusion of misadventure the coroner said: “The expert believes if it had been summonsed earlier she would have stood a realistic chance of surviving.”

After the inquest Charlotte’s mother Lisa said she had found it “difficult if not impossible” to move on since the tragedy.

“She was young and clearly could not rely on those people around her on that fateful night, for the help and protection she so needed,” she said.

“For the last 22 months I’ve had no voice, but the coroner in his findings summed up my thoughts and feelings.”