Mystery surrounds death of Westcountry domestic abuse victim

The death of a domestic abuse victim who was regularly assaulted by her husband remains a mystery, an inquest has heard. The inquest into the death of Susan Tregear, 56, was unable to provide a clear cause of death.

Susan was subjected to abuse by her husband in May 2022, which led to hospital treatment for a perforated bowel, the coroner’s court heard. After surgery, which involved the removal of part of her intestine, she faced a long recovery as her wound continued to reopen.

The inquest, held in Truro today (Tuesday, May 14), heard that Susan, from Cornwall, spent nine months in hospital and a further three in convalescence in Newquay before moving to a new flat in Camborne last year. Patricia Opie, Susan’s sister, told the inquest the family were concerned her husband’s injuries may have contributed to her death.

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However, the post-mortem examination did not conclusively link the abuse she suffered a year earlier to her later health problems. A toxicology report found nothing unusual, apart from the medication Susan was prescribed for anxiety and bowel problems, reports Cornwall Live.

The inquest heard that Susan initially seemed content and healthier in her new flat. Mrs Opie, concerned about Susan’s health, contacted Carn to Coast Health Centers – one of the largest GP groups in Cornwall, with around 30,000 patients – in May last year.

She informed the hearing that Susan was experiencing shortness of breath and anxiety. Dr. Ruth Mowlam, an associate family physician at the practice, revealed that Susan was consistently missing her prescribed medication, possibly exacerbating her mood swings and anxiety.

Dr Mowlam told the inquest that no immediate medical attention was deemed necessary during her conversation with Susan, so no home visit was arranged and another patient was given priority. The following day, Susan was found dead at her home after her carer alerted her employer that he could not access Susan’s property, leading to the fire brigade and paramedics being called.

Mrs Opie said: “I went to the doctor to see Susan. I knew she wasn’t right. She had trouble breathing. She couldn’t get out of bed. I wish she hadn’t bothered and called an ambulance instead.”

Dr Mowlam told the inquest there were lessons to be learned from Susan’s death, including improving note-taking by using patients’ or their relatives’ own words when describing conditions rather than summarizing them.

Anne Hood, who looked after Susan, also gave evidence at the hearing. In her statement read aloud in court, she revealed that she had only worked with Susan for a short time before her death.

She noted that Susan often neglected to take her medication or eat, even when encouraged. While Susan had a post-hospital care plan, Ms Hood said, “she wouldn’t be forced to do anything she didn’t want to do”.

She added: “She was reluctant to receive any care or help. It was hard to have a conversation with her. She didn’t tell me if she was in pain and wanted something.” Mrs. Hood noted that Susan did not seem sorry and certainly did not anticipate her sudden death.

Andrew Cox, Senior Coroner for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly delivered an open verdict, saying Susan appeared to be on the road to recovery after her challenging discharge from hospital. He said her breathing was affected by anxiety, prompting her sister to express concern that her condition was deteriorating, prompting Ms Opie to request a home visit from the doctor of Susan’s family.

However, it was deemed unnecessary at the time. He said: “There was a process in place for the next day to consider the need for a doctor’s visit. He didn’t expect Susan to die overnight. Susan’s cause of death could not be determined, leading me to return an open conclusion. “