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Disabled woman died after mother

A woman devoted to caring for her profoundly disabled daughter died in bed, leaving her child to die from dehydration or a series of seizures, an inquest has been told.

Polish-born Stefania Woolf, 67, shunned all help in caring for daughter Samantha, 29, who suffered from epilepsy and cerebral palsy and had a heart condition and brain damage after being starved of oxygen at birth.

On July 31 last year leaflet deliverers noticed scores of flies and a smell of rotten meat emerging from the letter box of the family home in Marford Road, Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire.

A coroner said Mrs Woolf died from natural causes.

Frances Cranfield, Assistant Deputy Coroner for Hertfordshire, added that her daughter, who was found slumped at the foot of her wheelchair, died because of an inability to care for herself after her mother died, and recorded a narrative verdict.

Mrs Woolf probably died on July 13 with her daughter dying a "horrendous" death a few days later once the effects of her medication wore off. Their bodies went undetected for nearly three weeks and were too badly decomposed, a pathologist said, to give a precise cause of death.

But Mrs Woolf, who was once a hairdresser in Vienna, might have died from an undiagnosed brain or heart condition. In the days before she died Mrs Woolf recorded in her diary suffering "attacks" of aches and pains in her legs, chest and shoulders, and head pulses.

Detective Inspector Sharn Basra, who investigated, said she also made "odd comments" about being watched and worried that her daughter would be kidnapped. Her "paranoia" reflected her attitude to how she looked after her daughter.

Twice-married Mrs Woolf had a breakdown in 1998 and was sectioned for 19 days and treated in hospital in St Albans. She took her last course of anti-depressants in 2002 and was thought to be cured, said her GP, Dr Deborah Gilhan. Miss Woolf had been under the care of Hertfordshire County Council until 2006 when her mother fell out with officials and refused them access, saying it was "an intrusion" in their lives.

The doctor was brought in to keep tabs on the pair and they agreed to have annual meetings with her.

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