Lawyer challenges coroner's view over drink-related death of Lynne Spalding

The Northern Echo: Lynne Spalding had lived in America for 20 years Lynne Spalding had lived in America for 20 years

A LAWYER representing the family of a North-East woman found dead in a locked stairwell in a US hospital is disputing a coroner's view that her death was probably related to alcohol abuse.

Lynne Spalding, 57, originally from Peterlee, County Durham, disappeared from her room at San Francisco General Hospital on September 21 but her body was not found until 17 days later.

Assistant medical examiner Ellen Moffat said in a report the mother-of-two had been dead for days before the discovery and probably died of "a chemical imbalance due to complications from chronic alcohol abuse".

Ms Moffat said Ms Spalding was confused and delirious on the day she disappeared and did not know the day or time or even why she was in the hospital.

But attorney Haig Harris has said Ms Spalding's death was unrelated to alcoholism and that she had died of starvation or dehydration.

He told the San Francisco Chronicle that the mention of alcoholism "demeans the memory of this woman, without telling us when she died, how long she was out there suffering".

Ms Spalding had lived in the city for more than 20 years and had two grown-up children, a 19-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter, who both live in the US.

A spokesman for Ms Spalding's family, David Perry, has also denied she had a drink problem.

Speaking after the discovery of her body, he described Ms Spalding as 'the very best of England and the United States combined'.

He said: “Her loss will be felt greatly, not only in her family but across San Francisco because everyone knew Lynne Spalding here.”

She had been admitted for a bladder or urinary tract infection and arrived at the hospital thin and frail with her children worried about her condition.

An internal investigation of the hospital's security measures is due to be carried out, as well as a police inquiry into Ms Spalding's death.

San Francisco mayor Ed Lee said: 'This should not have happened, we all agree.

'And we want to prevent it from ever happening again.

'A thorough independent review is required, and we will do that.

“The city is responsible for what happened here.”

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