Grieving Newham aunt wanted niece to get help

Walthamstow Coroner's Court

Walthamstow Coroner's Court - Credit: Archant

A postgraduate who was found slumped at the bottom of the stairs in her family’s home died of alcoholism and bronchopneumonia, a coroner ruled today.

Winnie Amaguru had been battling alcohol problems while fighting a custody battle with her ex-husband for their two daughters.

She died at her aunt’s home on Tower Hamlets Road at 5.05am on October 11, 2013. She was described as a “lovely lady” and her death a “tragic loss”.

The 39-year-old worked as a social-worker and moved to the UK from Uganda at the age of 14. In 2011 her family discovered she had stopped working and “had problems”, Walthamstow Coroners’ Court heard.

They wrote a letter to a mental health service and urged her to seek help.

Her aunt, Betty Anduru, told the court: “She was withdrawn, perversive, persistent and problematic. We thought she had a personality disorder. We wanted her to have a mental assessment and it was evident she was now drinking.

“She would drink wine and hide it and I would find it in her bag. She was sometimes so erratic we thought she needed mental help.”

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In the year’s before her death, Winnie’s brother contacted a mental health service when he grew worried his sister was depressed.

Sophia-Maria Andreas, a senior mental health practitioner from the East London Foundation, said there were no signs of psychosis, adding: “She was not deemed to pose a risk to herself so I robustly and pro-actively supported her with engaging with a drug and alcohol service called DAZL.

“There was no question about her capacity, she was very aware of the situation she was in.”

Sophia explained the service assesses people who they consider to suffer from severe mental health conditions and Winnie was not considered to fit this category.

“We accepted she was a vulnerable woman in trying circumstances and she was battling alcohol dependency which seemed to overwhelm her,” Sophia added, “But at no point did I think she suffered from a mental health problem at all.

“I encouraged her to go to a service to help her but the client has to do it voluntarily.

“I found her to be very logical, coherent and insightful. She was trying to get her life back on track and it’s really tragic things ended as they did.”

Winnie was assessed by mental health practitioners on four occasions before her death, but at no time was she found to have a mental disorder.

She was encouraged to engage with the drugs and alcohol service but her engagement was intermittent and the day before her death she discharged herself from hospital.

In her conclusion, coroner Nadia Persaud said: “There is no evidence to say [Winnie] lacked the mental capacity at the time to discharge herself.

“Unfortunately mental health practitioners cannot compel patients, they must self-refer.

“I appreciate how frustrating that must be but I’m satisfied it was not acute alcohol poisoning that led to her death, it was many years of alcohol abuse which led to the bronchopneumonia.

“Her death is alcohol related. She died from alcoholism and bronchopneumonia. She was clearly a lovely lady and this was a tragic loss.”