A much-loved Lytham mum who ‘adored her dogs’ was found dead at home by police after her body had been partially eaten by her pets. Police were called to the flat of Sarah Elizabeth Jay in Warwick Road at lunchtime on Saturday April 23 of this year.
After officers noted a number of flies at the window they looked through a gap in the curtains to see the 54-year-old laid on the bed. When PC Rebecca Bell went inside the flat she ‘instantly noticed the smell of death’ and found Sarah dead on the bed. Her skull, neck and chest were badly decomposed and PC Bell returned to her colleague outside and said: “It’s a skeleton.”
An inquest at Blackpool Town Hall heard that Sarah, a retired personal trainer who was born in Stockport, had a large amount of morphine in her system. Her daughter Beth told the hearing that her mum had been self-medicating to treat back pain caused by degenerative disc disease and had obtained the morphine from her late father who had been prescribed it as part of end-of-life care.
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The inquest heard that Sarah, who lived alone, had four dogs and one cat. The officers who attended her flat on April 23, who were called after a neighbour hadn’t seen Sarah for two days, said three of the dogs were jumping up at the window.
PC Andrew Crowe, one of the first officers on the scene on April 23, said in a statement: “We arrived at 12.15pm and we saw flies in the ground floor window and a dog jumping up. There was a strong smell of death. I forced entry and PC Bell went in first. She turned round and said ‘it’s a skeleton’.”
Dr Mark Sissons, a consultant pathologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, carried out a post mortem five days later but was unable to ascertain a cause of death. “The body was badly decomposed and it was evident that part of the body had been eaten by animals,” he concluded.
Sarah’s daughter Beth told the coroner that she had last seen her mum in January, although they had spoken more recently, and this was normal as they lived some distance away from each other. “We last spoke on April 8,” Beth said.
“She wasn’t good, that had been evident from February, she had been accusing me of hacking into her bank account and she thought I was working together with her ex-husband. I tried to seek help for her by calling 111 but they basically told me that as she was an adult she could just refuse help.
“She said she felt that some days she couldn’t get out of bed because of her back and that was stressful for her because she was so active and loved walking the dogs. I don’t believe she would have taken her own life. She wouldn’t have left her dogs and I went in the flat after she died and the dog food was out on the side ready for the next day.”
Beth Jay said that her mum ‘had many friends’ and was loved by a lot of people. “She wasn’t a recluse, she was very active and a lot of people loved and cared about her.”
Returning a conclusion of a drug-related death, and finding on the balance of probabilities that morphine toxicity caused Sarah’s death, Assistant Coroner Louise Rae said: “Sarah Jay was a well-loved lady who adored her dogs. She had many friends locally and would regularly walk her dogs on the local beaches.
“She had been experiencing quite severe pain in her joints. Her pain was severe and would restrict her mobility which was difficult for her as she was an active lady.
“Her daughter believed she had started taking her grandfather’s oramorph. He had passed away previously and had been prescribed oramorph in his end-of-life care and after her death Sarah’s daughter found bottles of her grandfather’s oramorph in her bedroom.”