Portsmouth pub The Lady Hamilton adorned with flowers for much-loved barmaid after her mysterious death
A HUGE outpouring of grief has been sparked by the death of a much-loved barmaid, who feared she may have been spiked at a popular Portsmouth nightclub shortly before she died.
Cordelia Stemp, also known as Dee Skelton, had returned to her home in Westfield Road, Eastney, after feeling suddenly unwell while at the Hampshire Boulevard nightclub in St Paul’s Road on November 11.
Police are investigating the circumstances leading to her death, which remains unexplained and has triggered an inquest.
The 49-year-old’s death has ‘hit a lot of hearts’, according to her daughter, Yolanda Stemp, with dozens of flowers placed outside Dee’s workplace at The Lady Hamilton pub in The Hard and more than 130 people expected to attend her funeral at St Mary’s Church in Fratton.
Yolanda says that the family feels ‘overwhelmed’ by the sudden death, the community’s response, and the troubling circumstances around the mum-of-two’s final moments.
The Wightlink employee said her mother had been enjoying a night out at the HB nightclub when she began to feel ill – suspecting that her drink may have been spiked.
Yolanda said: ‘She texted (her friend) on her way home, saying she didn’t feel well at 1.15am. At 1.20am she text him saying, “I’m burning, I’m sweating”.
‘She said she had a pain in her stomach.
‘When she got home, her friend – who is a lodger there – was in the front room. She said to him, ‘I feel like I’ve been spiked’.
‘My mum clearly stated in her text messages that there was something seriously wrong with her.
‘I understand that things are very complicated… my main thing is that my mum was very loved, but there is a possibility this could have happened. We’re not ruling that it is – it’s still inconclusive.’
The family have been told that the results of a toxicology examination could take up to two months.
It come as venues across Portsmouth roll-out a new app-based alert to help keep customers safe, after a spate of reported spikings across the city.
Billy Marchant, the friend who accompanied Dee to the HB nightclub on the Wednesday evening, said he was shocked at how the night ended.
The Portsea resident added: ‘Where she texted me, she obviously felt different to normal.
‘She was lovely, lovely lady – she deserves a bit of recognition.’
Dee’s lodger and family friend, Charlie Brown, said that Dee did not seem herself when she returned home from the club.
He said: ‘She was not herself at all.
‘She was a lovely person, always smiling. If anyone was down, she would put a smile on their face.’
The manager of The Lady Hamilton pub, Ivan Lim, said the much-loved staff member will be sorely missed.
The landlord of five years said: ‘We all felt really shocked and sad, so we decided to put some flowers out the front of the pub.
‘She has lived in Portsmouth for a long time and received a lot of affection from the community here since she joined the pub.
‘If you knew Dee, she came across as really friendly, she always had a smile. She always tried her best to make you feel better.’
Fellow barmaid Jancie Dore added: ‘She was a lovely, lovely lady. She was very popular – I’m not surprised by the amount of flowers.’
HB nightclub was approached for comment, and a spokeswoman from Hampshire Constabulary said that the venue had been secured shortly after the incident and ‘a thorough investigation’ was conducted.
She said: ‘We were called at 2.01am on Thursday 11 November by our colleagues from South Central Ambulance Service to an address on Westfield Road in (Eastney) following reports of a medical episode.
‘A 49-year-old woman was taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital for treatment where she later died.
‘We’re investigating the circumstances leading up to the woman’s death, which is currently being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A file is being prepared for the coroner.
‘As Hampshire Boulevard was identified as a location that the woman had visited earlier in the night, we attended the premises, which had already closed, who worked with us to evacuate the few remaining patrons so that the premises could be secured and a thorough investigation could be conducted.’
Dee’s funeral at St Mary’s will take place at 1pm on Friday, December 3, with the family requesting any flowers to be sent to the church.
Yolanda hopes the community will remember her mother for her ‘kind and caring’ personality that touched so many people.
The 23-year-old said: ‘I want people to remember my mum as the funny, bubbly person that she was.
‘If you needed some one to talk to, even if it was 3am on Facebook, she was there for you.
‘She was my best friend… I cry all day most days.’