A TEACHING assistant died of hypothermia after falling in her back garden, an inquest heard.

Ann Waddington had been drinking on what was the third anniversary of her husband’s death when she fell at her home in Dalby Crescent, Blackburn on January 2.

East Lancashire coroner Michael Singleton was told the 61-year-old, who worked at Sacred Heart RC Primary School, also suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, which would have affected her ability to get up after falling.

The inquest was told a number of neighbours heard noises on the night she died including groans.


A police investigation was launched but quickly ruled out the involvement of anyone else.

Giving evidence, Mrs Waddington’s sister, Marie Cole, said she had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for almost 30 years, which was being managed by medication, however it meant she had weak upper body strength.

Of the night of her death, Mrs Cole, said: “She came round to my house at about 1.30pm and was in good spirits. We talked for about two hours and made plans to go around the sales on Tuesday.

“I knew she was going to visit her son in the evening and have a meal with him.

“It was New Year’s Day and the anniversary of her husband’s death. It was not a surprise she had been drinking.”

Det Insp Neil Marr told the inquest a number of neighbours said they had heard noises that night.

One described hearing a low groaning sound at around 11.45pm and again at around 2am. Another heard a woman’s voice at around 2am and described ‘shouting or screaming which continued for a few seconds’, while another could hear both a woman’s and man’s voice ‘raised as if they were having an argument’.

Dr Philip Lumb, forensic pathologist, said he was told by Mrs Waddington’s son that she did not drink heavily and had fallen in the garden before. On one occasion she was helped up by a member of the public.

He said there were no injuries that suggested she had been assaulted. He said Mrs Waddington's blood alcohol level was twice the drink-drive limit.

Mrs Waddington was also found in a T-shirt which was raised up, which may have been ‘part of a paradoxical undressing we see with hypothermia when people start taking their clothes off’, Dr Lumb said.

“It is a moderate alcohol concentration but if you are not used to drinking it could have an effect on judgment or increase the risk of accidental falls coupled with her joint strength it increases the possibility of developing hypothermia, he said.

Coroner Michael Singleton concluded she died an accidental death.

He said: “The medical cause of death is hypothermia contributing to that is alcohol intoxication and rheumatoid arthritis."

“In the late evening of January 1 or early hours of January 2 while under the influence of alcohol she fell in her rear garden.

"Due to the effects of the alcohol and rheumatoid arthritis she was unable to extricate herself from that position. It was a particularly cold night and as a consequence she suffered hypothermia and died.

“I can’t begin to imagine the pain and grief that follows from that particularly when the circumstances at the time gave rise to the question as to whether is was a violent death.”

He said although witnesses heard sounds that may or may not have related to Mrs Waddington it would be difficult to criticise them for not taking action.

“The tragedy of course being there was the potential to save Mrs Waddington had the enquiries revealed her in the rear garden,” he added.