Eastbourne man refuses to attend inquest into woman’s death

Eastbourne Town Hall
Eastbourne Town Hall

Mystery surrounds the death of a 41-year-old woman who was found dead in a bedsit in Eastbourne earlier this year.

And the man who spent the last few hours with Elaine Starr before she died this week refused to attend an inquest so her family could find out exactly what had happened.

Robert McPhee, described during the hearing at Eastbourne Town Hall as a witness who took drugs and whose evidence could not be relied upon, told officers Mrs Starr had been drinking and taken drugs on February 15 this year, and after spending the night at his bedsit in St Aubyn’s Road, he had found her dead in the bed.

Toxicology reports showed she was three times over the legal drink drive limit and had heroin, cocaine, painkillers and anti-depressants in her system.

He gave a statement to police officers at the time of her death but failed to turn up to Thursday’s hearing, which was attended by Mrs Starr’s daughter, mother and sister.

The inquest heard Mrs Starr, a former cleaner, had a long battle with depression and alcohol abuse and started to use drugs but had moved from Brighton to the Saffrons Hotel in Eastbourne’s Jevington Gardens and was getting help from the drug and substance abuse advisory service at Lift House.

Claire Pownall from Lift House said Mrs Starr had been living on the streets at times and had been difficult to engage with but was actively trying to come off drugs and stop drinking.

Through a statement by Mr McPhee, the inquest heard Mrs Starr had bumped into him on Valentine’s night and stayed with him in the bedsit, provided for him by Sanctuary Housing.

He said he felt sorry for her as she had been treated badly and her phone had been stolen by two men, named at the inquest as Andy Blackford and Charlie Sayers.

Mr McPhee said he met Mrs Starr again the following day and she had been drinking heavily and when he helped her into his bed back at St Aubyn’s Road, he noticed a pill had fallen from her jeans.

He said she slept during the night but when he tried to wake her up the next morning, she did not respond.

In his statement Mr McPhee said, “I was trying to wake her up, I started to shake her shoulders. I was panicking.”

The alarm was raised by staff and police and paramedics rushed to the scene but Mrs Starr was already dead.

Recording a verdict of death due to drugs dependency, East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said Mrs Starr’s death was down to her alcohol abuse over a considerable period of time and the fact she had also started to abuse drugs before her death.