Heroin inquest claim angers family
There were angry scenes at the inquest of a Belfast mother-of-two who died from a heroin overdose, after her partner claimed she had bought the drugs for his Christmas present.
Relatives of Deborah Thompson were incensed by the claim from Peter Bailey about the drugs the former catering assistant consumed on the night she died earlier this year.
Her mother Sarah accused Mr Bailey of "lying" and insisted her daughter was not a drug abuser and would not have bought the illegal substances.
The issue was one of a number that triggered heated exchanges between Mr Bailey and his partner's family during the emotional inquest hearing in Belfast, with coroner Suzanne Anderson at one point warning that the court would have to be cleared if calm was not restored.
Mr Bailey admitted he had been a heroin abuser for 30 years and had introduced Ms Thompson to the drug eight years ago.
But he insisted that his long-term partner would have taken drugs on a regular basis and would also have bought drugs for them both.
He said she had hidden her habit from her family.
Mr Bailey, who lived with Ms Thompson in Ardcarn Drive in Tullycarnet in east Belfast, told the court that they had a major row before Christmas last year, prompting him to move out of the house.
He said he had been working in the shipyards in Portsmouth over this period and it was not until March when the pair agreed that he would return to Northern Ireland.
The fatal incident unfolded on the night he came back.
Mr Bailey told the court that on arrival Ms Thompson gave him his Christmas presents she had been unable to give him previously due to their fight.
He said one was a small bag of drugs, containing heroin, cocaine and "smack".
"She did not say where she got them from and I did not ask," he said.
The shipyard worker said the two of them sat up late into the night taking the drugs together and drinking.
"We sat on the couch talking and watching TV and talking about the future together and how I would have to change," he said.
Mr Bailey said he went to bed first, claiming Ms Thompson told him she would follow him up after injecting the last of the heroin.
He later went to get her a vodka and orange to drink in bed but said she was sleeping when he returned.
The next morning, he said he got up and decided to go out to get a paper. He said he kissed Ms Thompson as he left and noticed she was cold, but he thought that was because the house was also cold.
It was only on his return, when she had not moved and was unresponsive, that he became alarmed and phoned an ambulance. When paramedics arrived they established that Ms Thompson had been dead for hours.
Giving evidence, Ms Thompson's mother said she knew her daughter had an issue with drink but challenged the claim she was a regular drug user.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I know Deborah took drugs," she said.
Deputy state pathologist Dr Alastair Bentley said there was a high concentration of metabolised heroin and alcohol in Ms Thompson's system at post-mortem examination - a cocktail that would have been fatal.
Ms Anderson recorded the cause of death as "accidental overdose of heroin combined with alcohol".
She passed her condolences to the family members.
"Obviously it has come as an enormous and horrible shock to learn of the circumstances of Deborah's death," she said.
"I hope that by being here today and hearing as much about the death it will help with the grieving process."
Ms Thompson's mother replied: "It won't bring her back."