A PHARMACY dispenser who was allegedly blackmailed by her boyfriend into stealing medication died after a drugs relapse, an inquest heard.

Recovering heroin addict Natalie Welsh had been clean for a decade before she died in August last year, Brighton and Hove Coroner’s Court was told. But she had been through a tough break-up and recently started dating David Howat, a regular customer at the Boots chemist where she worked.

The month before she died the 37-year-old told her doctor she had collapsed after taking heroin again and was battling anxiety and depression. She also told her mother, June, that she had gone to hospital after being assaulted when resisting Mr Howat, who had tried to get her card pin number.

A few weeks later Mr Howat visited her at home in Cowfold Road, Brighton, where she lived with her mother. Mrs Welsh went to bed early and came downstairs at around 6am to find the pair asleep in the lounge and snoring very loudly, the inquest heard.

She made a cup of tea, went back upstairs and found them still snoring when she came downstairs again half an hour later. But when she checked on them for a third time she found Ms Welsh unconscious. She shook her to try and wake her up before calling an ambulance.

Mrs Welsh told the inquest: "I tried to wake David, he wasn’t happy about that. He said: ‘What she’s taken can’t kill her.’ Then he vanished."

Paramedics battled for around 45 minutes to revive her but she was pronounced dead shortly before 11am.

Ms Welsh’s brother Alex told the inquest: "I knew something was wrong because she was distressed. He [David] had been blackmailing her to steal from the chemist."

But Detective Sergeant Dee Wells, who had investigated the death, said police found no evidential proof of theft or blackmail.

Mrs Welsh said her daughter would try and conceal her drug use but added: "He [David] was in a terrible state."

A toxicology report found traces of chemicals which are broken down in the body when heroin, cocaine and tramadol had been taken, but no evidence of alcohol. Giving evidence, Amber Crampton, a clinical scientist at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, said tests had not found the use of cocaine had been a contributing factor to the death.

David Howat has since died and will be the subject of another inquest in November.

Senior coroner Veronica Hamilton-Deeley said: "It was a point when she was really quite low in her personal life and it has not taken long to meet the wrong people and fall back into taking heroin.

"There is absolutely no evidence she intended to die. I don’t think there was anything reversible about it. She died of a fatal toxicity of heroin with a the contributing factor of tramadol but alone that would not have killed her, heroin would have done."

She found Ms Welsh’s death was drug related and recorded a conclusion of misadventure.