Mystery still surrounds the death of a Bradford hospice volunteer who slipped in a puddle fracturing her arm on holiday in the Dominican Republic.
Assistant Bradford Coroner Mary Burke yesterday said she could not rely on the post-mortem evidence from abroad that concluded 60-year-old Cath Smith’s heart stopped towards the end of surgery on her arm, probably because of thickened coronary arteries.
The report also said Mrs Smith’s heart had shown signs of previous heart attacks, but UK pathologist Faizul Ali, who was giving evidence at yesterday’s inquest, said he had not seen that during his examination, neither did he find evidence her heart had been enlarged. He said he could not examine the coronary arteries because they had not been returned with Mrs Smith’s body.
Recording a narrative verdict, Mrs Burke said: “I don’t feel I can rely fully on the post-mortem findings from the Dominican Republic. Therefore I’m prepared to adopt Dr Ali’s findings that her death was unascertained.”
The inquest heard Mrs Smith, of Royds Moor Road, Tong, had been in “great shape” despite battling breast cancer twice and having osteoporosis. Her GP records showed no complaints of heart problems or chest pains.
Mrs Smith died on May 22, 2012, and Margaret Ashton, who was on holiday with her, blamed water on the floor from a leaky air-conditioning unit for her friend’s fall in her hotel room.
The inquest heard statements from Mrs Ashton, hotel reception staff, a maintenance man and the hotel representative which contained differing accounts of the chain of events.
Mrs Ashton stated she went to reception to raise the alarm, but reception staff maintained she only asked for a bottle of water and it was a maintenance man who told them there had been an accident.
However, Mrs Ashton said when she had got back from reception she found a maintenance man with a bucket under the leak, draining the system.
The maintenance man said the hotel’s reception told him a guest had reported a leak, but when he got to the room he found no water on the floor and no defect in the unit, and saw Mrs Smith sitting on a bed rubbing her arm in pain.
Mrs Burke said: “I fully accept there are discrepancies, but I’ve got no means to solve it.”
Giving her narrative verdict, she said Mrs Smith had no previous cardiac problems, but while on holiday had fallen fracturing her left arm and had surgery, suffering a sudden cardiac event and could not be resuscitated.