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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Cumbrian woman, 20, turned to drink after alleged sex attack - inquest

A young woman described as a “bright young lady” died after turning to alcohol to try to cope with a traumatic event in her life, an inquest heard.

Laura Hanley photo
Laura Hanley

Laura Hanley, 20, of Parkside, Crosby near Maryport, was found dead in her home on August 17 last year by her father, Stephen.

A post mortem revealed she was five times over the drink drive limit for alcohol.

Coroner David Roberts heard that Miss Hanley, a former Netherhall School pupil, had been the victim of an alleged sexual assault which had been tried in court but the accused had been acquitted. She had told her mother in the months before her death that she was raped in the incident.

Mr Roberts said: “It is clear from the evidence I have heard that the incident had substantially effected Laura in terms of self-worth and overall demeanour and happiness.

“She started to abuse substances, in particular alcohol, and began binge drinking and would often not go out of the house for some time.”

The inquest heard that since the court case Miss Hanley had been admitted to hospital several times due to overdoses and self-harm but that in the last couple of months before her death had begun to drink less.

She had also sought help in the form of rape and alcohol counselling.

However, Mr Hanley told the inquest that when she did drink she would drink large amounts in a short space of time. She also suffered with bulimia.

Miss Hanley, who had dreamt of a career in the police or probation service, lived with her mother, Kim Marie Martin, stepfather Andrew, brother Lee and sister Shannon.

On the morning of her death they had left for a trip to Blackpool for the weekend.

Mrs Martin said: “She had been absolutely fine and I felt I could leave her. She had been talking about going back to college.”

Mrs Martin added: “I think she lost a lot of self-worth with what happened to her when she was assaulted.

“I think a lot of it was a cry for help more than anything and drinking sort of blotted out what had happened.

“In the last few months she was doing really well, she was keeping appointments and getting help through Rape Crisis that she had been referred to through the probation service.”

On the day she died Miss Hanley had also spoken to a neighbour and a distant relative who both said she seemed happy and in good spirits.

The inquest was told that the cause of death was aspiration of stomach contents caused by alcohol toxicity.

Mr Roberts said that there was no evidence to suggest she had the intention of ending her life through the alcohol consumption and a formal verdict of death by misadventure was recorded.

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