Woman’s death sparked Hayling Island police murder probe

111871_HAYLING ISLAND_19/05/11''Police investigate the scene of a murder in Norfolk Crescent, Hayling Island. ' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111871-541)
111871_HAYLING ISLAND_19/05/11''Police investigate the scene of a murder in Norfolk Crescent, Hayling Island. ' 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (111871-541)
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A COCKTAIL of drink and drugs led to the death of a woman who police initially suspected had been murdered, an inquest has heard.

Cheryl Holtham, inset, a 36-year-old mother of one, was a homeless alcoholic who led a chaotic, and sometimes violent life.

INQUEST Cheryl Holtham

INQUEST Cheryl Holtham

In 2009 she was evicted from her Fareham flat and given an anti-social behaviour order forbidding her from drinking alcohol in public or harassing people.

From then on she slept at various flats in Norfolk Crescent, Hayling Island, which is where her body was found just after 8pm on May 19 at a flat which was the home of John Edwards.

Mr Edwards alerted his neighbour Ann Smart who, Detective Sergeant Stephen Spencer told the inquest, said in a 999 call she believed Miss Holtham had been murdered.

Det Sgt Spencer, of Waterlooville CID, told Coroner David Horsley at an inquest at Portsmouth Guildhall that Mr Edwards said to one of the police officers at the scene: ‘Is she dead? If so, good.

‘Everyone wanted her dead around here.’

He was also found to have blood on his shoes and admitted moving Miss Holtham’s body from the position he originally found her in.

He was arrested on suspicion of her murder.

Miss Holtham was known to have had a violent relationship with her boyfriend Jason Highgate, who was also homeless. He too was arrested on a murder charge the following day.

But a post-mortem examination revealed no physical signs of assault or trauma although she had a number of old bruises to her body and there was extensive evidence of self-harming.

Det Sgt Spencer told the inquest the post-mortem had discovered no evidence of any third-party involvement.

‘The post-mortem gives cause of death as an alcohol and methadone cocktail. No criminal activity was discovered that contributed to Cheryl’s death,’ he said.

Mr Edwards and Mr Highgate were released without charge. Addressing Miss Holtham’s mother, Susan Curtis, Mr Horsley explained that taken on their own the levels of alcohol and methadone would not have killed her daughter. It was the combination of the two that proved fatal.

He recorded a verdict of death from misuse of drugs and added: ‘I’m so sorry. It’s not through want of caring from you.’