Naked loo dash ends in horrific, protracted death
Woman who got up to go to toilet during the night got herself stuck in a cupboard where she died of hypothermia
A British holidaymaker died after becoming trapped naked in an airing cupboard for a “number of days”, an inquest heard.
Elizabeth Mary Isherwood, 60, had got up to go to the bathroom during the night while on a one-week stay at a holiday complex near Machynlleth, mid-Wales, the coroner said.But entering the airing cupboard after she might have mixed up the doors, the part-time care worker became trapped in a “very confined space” and part of the door knob fell off, coroner Dewi Pritchard Jones told the hearing.
Isherwood tried in vain to force her way out and was sprayed by a water pipe, the inquest was told. She died of hypothermia at the Plas Talgarth holiday complex at Pennal, Machynlleth.
The inquest heard that Isherwood arrived alone on Saturday, September 23 last year and knew the flat from previous visits.
“What I believe happened is some time during the night or during the morning she had got up and gone to the bathroom,” Pritchard Jones said. “From there she went to the airing cupboard.”The door opened inwards and it closed behind her. The cupboard was a “very confined space,” he added.
Pritchard Jones said the round part of the door knob seemed to have come off the internal mechanism, which was still attached to the door and she could not turn the spindle.
“Being unable to turn the lock and realising she was trapped and there was no light, at some stage she first of all pulled the shelves off. Whether she used them to try and get out, I can’t say.
“What she did do was she pulled the copper piping and a piece was broken off. This was used to try initially to open the door because there were marks on the door but also used to try and break a hole through the wall of the airing cupboard. I believe she knocked some of the plaster of one wall to find blocks behind.”Isherwood managed to make a hole in another wall.
“Unfortunately on the other side of the wall was a picture,” Pritchard Jones said. “She had been able to break a hole completely through that wall. I think the presence of the picture meant she didn’t realise. She probably thought she couldn’t get out.”
The coroner said water would have been flowing through the airing cupboard, spraying everything inside.
“What I am unable to make a finding on is the timing of all of this. I am satisfied she occupied the flat on September 23.
“She wasn’t seen after that. My belief is what happened, being locked in the airing cupboard, happened during the night of the 23rd-24th and more than likely during the early hours of the 24th.
“I don’t know how long she was in the cupboard. She was a fit lady. The cause of all this was the failure of the knob in the airing cupboard door.”The coroner recorded a conclusion of misadventure because of “the sheer bad luck that the knob disintegrated while Mrs Isherwood was in the cupboard, although I can’t say why she was there”.
Home Office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers told the coroner: “I can’t tell you when she went in that cupboard, but she may well have been in there a number of days trying to get out.“Whether she’s somehow gone in the wrong door, got confused, who knows? But she’s entered that airing cupboard and the door has closed behind her.”She had been in complete darkness and naked. The door opened inwards and she had been unable to kick the door outwards.
Rodgers said: “The cause of her death is hypothermia.” It had been accelerated by her being naked, stuck in a cupboard and sprayed by water, he added.
He did not know how long she had been trying to dig herself out through the walls. “She may have been dead by the Monday. It could have been more protracted,” Rodgers said.
Detective Constable Gareth Wilcox Jones said the occupier of another flat had heard a “series of thuds” possibly on Sunday night, but had not reported them. A maintenance worker found Isherwood’s body after water poured through a ceiling.
Family members made no comment as they left the hearing on Tuesday.
– © The Daily Telegraph