Accidental overdose mum Wilma Potts died next to treasured pets
A mother who died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs was found dead on her bathroom floor next to her beloved dogs, who perished in a house fire.
Wilma Potts (51), from south Belfast, was suffering from depression and a chronic lung disease when she died after taking tramadol at her family home on January 3 this year.
The inquest into her death heard how a fire ignited in her house shortly before she passed away and killed her two loyal pets, bichon frises Daisy and Bo, who were found next to her partially clothed body.
The mother-of-tree became depressed after the birth of her daughter, Victoria, and struggled with mental health problems for many years.
She was later diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and was prescribed tramadol for pain in her hips and back.
Belfast Coroner's Court heard yesterday that on the day before her death, the victim's ex-husband, Raymond Potts, visited her as he did every day.
He said she was in good spirits but drowsy, as was usually the case because of the medication needed for her health problems.
"I made her coffee and a sandwich and left at about 7pm with Victoria, our daughter, who still lived with Wilma," he added. "She didn't sleep or eat well and was uncomfortable because of her COPD. She spent most of her time in the living room.
"Wilma didn't have any intentions of self-harming. It would have been strange after Christmas as she was in reasonably good spirits."
Deputy state pathologist Dr James Lyness told the court Mrs Potts was still alive at the start of the fire, which was caused by a deep-fat fryer left on an electric hob. He explained that the amount of tramadol in her system was well above therapeutic levels and that it, coupled with other drugs including diazepam, olanzapine, citalopram and trazodone, caused her death.
He added that the small quantity of smoke she breathed in had a minor role in the tragedy.
Victoria, who was comforted during the inquest by her father and relatives, said she was "devastated" by the tragedy.
"The last time I spoke to her was to say we were leaving the house," she added.
"The next day my dad rang me and I knew something was wrong. When I got to the house the street was blocked off by the emergency services and my dad had to stop me from running in to the house."
A neighbour, Sabrina Calvert, told the inquest that she alerted the emergency services to the incident after her father spotted the blackened windows while out walking his dog shortly before 2pm, although the fire had burned out by that stage.
Coroner Joe Mr McCrisken told the court that, for an unknown reason, Mrs Potts accidentally overdosed, and that this coupled with other drugs caused her death.
"It could not have been easy with her problems, but she was lucky to be so well looked after," he added. "The family should be very proud they looked after her that way."