UK & World News

  • 15 December 2013, 15:07

Lynne Spalding: Lawyer Denies Alcohol Claim

A lawyer for a British woman found dead in a locked stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital is disputing a coroner's report that her death was probably related to "chronic alcohol abuse".

Lynne Spalding, 57, disappeared from her hospital room on September 21 but her body was not found until 17 days later on October 8.

Assistant medical examiner Ellen Moffat said in a new report that the mother-of-two had been dead for days before the discovery and probably died of "a chemical imbalance due to complications from chronic alcohol abuse".

Ms Spalding was confused and delirious on the day she disappeared and she did not know the day or time or even why she was in the hospital, Ms Moffat added.

But attorney Haig Harris insisted Ms Spalding's death was not related to alcoholism and that she had died of starvation or dehydration.

He told the San Francisco Chronicle that the mention of alcoholism "demeans the memory of this woman, without telling us when she died, how long she was out there suffering".

A spokesman for Ms Spalding's family, David Perry, has also denied she had a drinking problem.

Ms Spalding, originally from Peterlee, Co Durham, had been admitted for a bladder or urinary tract infection and arrived at the hospital thin and frail with her children worried about her condition.

Although sheriff's deputies at the hospital did a "perimeter search" of the hospital's 24-acre campus within an hour of her disappearance, it was not until September 30 that they attempted a more extensive search of the grounds.

The next day, after it became clear that not all the stairwells used as fire exits had been searched, a supervisor ordered the stairwell searches to continue, yet "only about half the stairwells" ever were, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said.

Ms Spalding's friends and relatives spent days scouring the streets of the Californian city with flyers because they were "under the assumption that San Francisco General had been searched and Lynne was not here".

On October, 4 a hospital staff member told the sheriff's department that someone had reported seeing a body in a locked stairwell of the building where Ms Spalding had been a patient.

A sheriff's dispatcher told hospital officials the department would respond, but there was "no indication that any one was dispatched to that stairwell".

Ms Spalding had lived in the city for more than 20 years and had two grown-up children, a 19-year-old son and 23-year-old daughter, who both live in the US.

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