Woman’s alcohol addiction death

A middle-aged woman who battled alcohol addiction died on a friend’s floor when she slept over for the night.

Tracey Harmer, of Glovers Lane, stayed at the home of Betty Gain in Calgary Road but was found dead next morning.

An inquest held at Hastings Law Court revealed she died of “fatal toxicity” on Thursday September 9 with alcohol levels of 519 mcg per 100ml of blood – approximately six times the drink-drive limit.

A report from her GP, Dr Henry Kinch, told how the 50-year-old waitress struggled with depression, and highlighted “significant mental and behavioural disorders due to her use of alcohol”.

Last summer she separated from her husband of three years, and suffered stress and anxiety as well as sleeping problems, for which Dr Kinch prescribed drugs including venlafaxine, and medication to help her abstain from drinking “but with little success”.

The inquest then heard how Mrs Harmer spent the day before her death with Dean Riches, of Ravenscourt, with whom she was described as sharing a “loving friendship” but which occasionally became volatile.

They had already been the previous night with Mrs Gain, who was disabled and welcomed visitors for help and company, then went out during the day.

Mr Riches was encouraging Mrs Harmer to cut down on drinking but they parted late afternoon and by the time she visited estranged husband Christopher at 8pm, she had already had consumed alcohol and had in her handbag - a bottle of vodka.

Mr Harmer described his wife as a “smashing” woman, and said she was outgoing and intelligent but became stressed because of alcohol.

He estimated she drank half a litre of vodka every day.

He said: “She seemed quite calm. Calm enough to sit and hold a normal conversation.”

She stayed almost an hour during which time she drank the vodka and Mr Harmer claimed her mobile phone rang a dozen times with calls from Mr Riches, who was shouting and swearing then came to collect her at 8.50pm.

The couple then went back to Mrs Gain’s where he “crashed out” on the sofa and she slept on cushions on the floor.

Mr Riches said he heard a noise at approximately 2am and saw her coming out the bathroom but guessed her to be “okay” before going back to sleep.

He woke early next morning and quickly became concerned by the blotchiness of Mrs Harmer’s legs.

He could not wake her and called for an ambulance.

Coroner Joanne Pratt returned a verdict of death caused by alcohol dependency having ruled out any other cause - concerns had been raised by a small cut on her forehead but it was thought this resulted from a fall inside the bathroom.

She discussed the drink addiction with Mrs Harmer’s mother, who told of past attempts to come off alcohol including a stay in Eastbourne District General Hospital’s dependency unit but commented: “There doesn’t seem be a lot of help out there.