No action to be taken over death of charity worker found six hours after 999 call as inquest records suicide verdict

Susan James, who worked at Chilterns MS Centre
Susan James, who worked at Chilterns MS Centre
  • Susan James was finance manager at the Chilterns MS Centre in Halton
  • 999 call was made from her home but officers took six hours to visit property
  • IPCC started investigation but will take no further action against police
  • Coroner has recorded a verdict of suicide
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Police will face no action over the death of charity worker Susan James who was found hanged nearly six hours after she made a 999 call, an inquest heard today.

Susan James, who was finance manager at the Chiltern MS Centre in Halton, was discovered by police after officers initially dispatched to her home were diverted to another urgent call.

She had many demons. I think the one demon in the end that caused this was online gambling

Susan James’ husband Geoff

There was no conversation during Mrs James’ emergency call, only ‘possible groaning’, and it is believed she may have already have been hanging at the time the call was made.

Officers arrived at the 44-year-old’s home in Dixon Close, Aylesbury, nearly six hours later and found several suicide notes written on A5 paper pinned to her.

A coroner heard that Mrs James was battling the ‘demons’ of an online gambling addiction and had emptied her bank accounts while her husband was away from home on a golfing trip.

An investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission had looked at why it took so long for officers to go to the property on September 13 last year.

However, the inquest in Beaconsfield heard no action would be taken as a result of the watchdog’s probe.

Buckinghamshire Coroner Richard Hulett, who recorded a suicide verdict, said it was highly unlikely anything could have been done to save her.

Mr Hulett said: “I was interested to see if any opportunities were lost and I think they weren’t.

“Whilst it is plain that the redirection of a police car to elsewhere meant that Mrs James wasn’t discovered until 5.40am, I’m of the view that in fact that made no difference to anything.

“There’s the distinct possibility that those noises that were heard at the time of the call were her last moments.”

The inquest heard Mrs James’ husband of five years, Geoff, had gone away on a golf trip on September 11.

He told the coroner that his wife had previously struggled with online gambling in 2013, and that the recent death of her stepfather could have sparked another spree. The inquest also heard she suffered from depression.

Mr James said: “She had many demons. I think the one demon in the end that caused this was online gambling.

“She had done it in 2013 and cleared out the bank accounts and confessed and promised never to do it again.

“She pretty much cleared the bank accounts again. She knew when I came back on the Sunday she would have to confess that she had been gambling again and the accounts were empty.”

The evening before Mrs James was found dead she spent 48 minutes on the phone with the Samaritans, as well as searching for information on their website.

Police were first alerted to the 999 call at 00.04am on September 13, but the only noise was ‘possible groaning’ and a television. As a result of this, officers were dispatched to the address.

“However, they were redeployed due to a confirmed sudden death before arrival as that was deemed more serious at the time,” Detective Sergeant Simon Johnson told the inquest.

“The police control room attempted to make further calls to the number numerous times but were unsuccessful.”

When officers eventually arrived at the property at 5.40am, an ambulance was called and attempts were made to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at 6am.

Messages which sounded ‘final’ were clipped to her chest and a vehicle logbook and bills had been laid out on a bed upstairs.

Mr Hulett said it was ‘plain and obvious’ Mrs James had taken her own life.