Belfast woman choked on own vomit as friends partied after drink and drug cocktail
A woman died in front of friends at a party after taking a lethal combination of heroin, diazepam, a legal high and alcohol, an inquest has heard.
A friend of Shauneen Dowds said the 28-year-old had been staying with her when she died. She told the coroner Ms Dowds "looked as if she was sleeping", but she had actually slipped into unconsciousness after injecting herself with heroin.
Because of the combined effects of the drugs and the herbal legal high she smoked, the Belfast woman was unable to deal with her stomach contents being brought up and died as others drank and chatted around her.
Her friend told the inquest: "Shauneen looked sleepy after taking the heroin and fell asleep on my bed settee.
"She seemed just to be sleeping and we thought nothing of it as it was normal procedure. She just looked really out of it."
A few hours later a man at the flat noticed that Ms Dowds appeared not to be breathing, then her friend checked her and noticed her lips were blue.
She immediately tried to counteract the effects of the heroin with an EpiPen, used to counteract severe allergic reactions, and called the ambulance in the early hours of the morning.
However, Ms Dowds could not be revived and was declared dead in the flat.
The inquest heard that the unmarried mother-of-two had been estranged from her family for the 10 years before her death on February 7, 2015 because of her alcohol and drug dependency.
Her friend confirmed she and Ms Dowds had injected themselves with heroin daily as they shared a small bedsit on Belfast's Dublin Road.
While Ms Dowds had also been drinking cider and vodka that day, her friend said that it was unusual for her to have taken the legal high, which was found in the flat after the arrival of police.
The friend also said she had successfully used the EpiPen on Ms Dowds five weeks before when she found her lying unconscious in the bathroom after injecting heroin.
She told how Ms Dowds had not been feeling well a few weeks before she died and wanted help in dealing with her drink and drug dependency.
Pathologist Dr James Lyness said there was no evidence of physical injury deliberately caused to Ms Dowds' body.
He added that while toxicology tests did not show the evidence of the legal high, he believed it contributed to the "fatal sequence" of drug-taking that led to her death.
After the inquest, Ms Dowds' sister Donna confirmed to the Belfast Telegraph that she had been stabbed in the head, neck and body by ex-champion athlete Adam Ingram in August 2013.
She added that while she knew her sister had problems with alcohol, she had not been aware she was using heroin.
Coroner Brian Sherrard ruled that Ms Dowds died from aspiration of gastric contents due to heroin toxicity combined with alcohol and diazepam.
He stressed it was important for the inquest not only to record Ms Dowds' death, but also that she was a woman with a family, a mother and a member of the community.