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Inquest into death of poppy seller Olive Cook, 92, due to be held

Published 16/07/2015

An inquest into the death of Olive Cooke, one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers, is due to open (Family handout/PA)
An inquest into the death of Olive Cooke, one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers, is due to open (Family handout/PA)

The inquest into one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers, who was found dead at the bottom of Avon Gorge in Bristol, will take place today.

Olive Cooke, 92, was found dead by police on May 6, two days before the anniversary of VE Day.

Mrs Cooke, from the Fishponds area of Bristol, dedicated 76 years of her life to raising money for the Royal British Legion and is believed to have sold around 30,000 poppies.

She supported numerous charities and at one point received 267 charity letters in one month, leading to suggestions being hounded for money pushed her to take her own life.

But her family have insisted that - while the letters and phone calls were intrusive - the charities were not to blame for Mrs Cooke's death.

An inquest will take place at Avon Coroner's Court in Flax Bourton at 2pm today.

The court previously heard Mrs Cooke, a widow and retired postlady, was pronounced dead at 6.20pm by a paramedic.

She was described as having long term issues with depression and low mood.

A post mortem examination found the cause of Mrs Cooke's death to be multiple injuries.

Fundraising methods of major charities have come under the spotlight since the death of Mrs Cooke.

Last week, David Cameron announced that rogue charity fundraisers taking advantage of vulnerable people's generosity will face a new law to stop such "unacceptable" behaviour.

The Prime Minister said the new law will force charities and fundraisers to have a written agreement showing how the vulnerable will be protected.

Changes will be introduced in amendments to the Charities Bill currently going through Parliament.

Mrs Cooke began selling poppies in 1938 aged 16, having been inspired by her father, who set up a Royal British Legion branch in Bedminster.

She devoted herself fully to the charity after husband Leslie Hussey-Yeo, a sailor in the Royal Navy, was killed in Italy in 1943, leaving her a war widow at the age of 21.

The grandmother-of-four and great-grandmother-of-two was a familiar face in Bristol and stood in the doorway of the city's cathedral every year in the lead-up to Remembrance Day.

Her family hope to set up a fund in her name.

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