Eastbourne woman ‘seen with drugs smugglers’ prior to death

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An Eastbourne woman who died of an overdose in Argentina was seen travelling with international drugs smugglers before her death, an inquest heard today (April 5).

Laura Hill, a 25-year-old dental nurse from Eastbourne, was found dead in a block of flats in Buenos Aires in 2007 after suffering a suspected cocaine overdose.

Speaking at an inquest in Eastbourne today, Trevor Bowles, a former Detective Chief Inspector who led the Sussex Police investigation into Ms Hill’s death, said she had been seen travelling with members of a drugs smuggling gang in both Argentina and Amsterdam prior to her death.

The men – including Leslie Graham from Dundee, Michael Hailwood from Liverpool and Jason Bowley from Croydon – were jailed in 2010 for a major drugs and firearms conspiracy spanning the UK, Europe and South America.

One of the gang members, Jason Bowley, is due to give evidence at the inquest later today.

Mr Bowles, who retired as a police officer in 2012 and now works for the force in a civilian role, also told the coroner how officers had struggled to get information from Argentinean authorities during an investigation into Ms Hill’s death.

The inquest also heard evidence from Allan Bayle, an independent forensics expert, who had examined crime scene photos on behalf of Laura Hill’s family and Peter Canning, a forensic photography consultant who examined the same photos for the Daily Mail newspaper.

Both experts say they believe the photos showed that Ms Hill’s had not collapsed in the hallway but was instead dumped in the hallway.

They also said it was possible she had been assaulted prior to her death due to signs of injuries in the crime scene photos.

Both reports also raised concerns that the Argentinian police may have failed to thoroughly investigate the scene of the crime and appeared to be missing some evidence.

East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said, “This is a tragic case for the family but I have been at pains to point out that it is not an unprecedented event that the evidence I get from another country isn’t complete.

“As I said earlier it’s a bit like a jigsaw but it is going to be a jigsaw with pieces missing.”

He also considered that the Home Office pathologist Dr Peter Jerreat, who gave evidence to the inquest yesterday (April 4), had found no evidence Ms Hill had been assaulted or carried prior to her death.

Post-mortem tests also found very high levels of cocaine in Ms Hill’s blood but found no evidence she had packages of cocaine concealed inside her body before her death.

Mr Craze also read a statement from a police officer who interviewed Ian Hall, a former boyfriend of Ms Hill, who said she been offered money to smuggle drugs into the UK at some point prior to her death.

The inquest continues.

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