Mystery over Burgess Hill woman found dead at the foot of stairs

The family of a woman found at the foot of her nephew’s stairs have been left uncertain over the exact circumstances of her death, an inquest has heard.

Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 2:59 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 3:01 pm

Kay Russell, 67, was cat-sitting for her nephew, Alex, at his Chichester Way home in Burgess Hill over the weekend of October 19, last year.

She spent October 20, sending pictures of the cat to the family and seemed to be in good spirits, the inquest at Centenary House in Crawley heard last Tuesday (March 19).

The following morning she did not arrive to meet friends for a Sunday coffee and, after failing to get a response, her sister went to the house to discover her lying at the bottom of the stairs.

The inquest took place at Centenary House in Crawley. Photo: Google Street View

Assistant coroner Christopher Wilkinson said her cause of death was blunt head injury, suggestive of a fall down the stairs.

Several potential causes of a fall were identified by Mr Wilkinson, and Mrs Russell’s nephew said the cat could not be ruled out.

“Sometimes my cat does get under people’s feet and, while I hope it’s not the case, it’s entirely possible that she tripped on the cat,” he said.

The post-mortem examination found Mrs Russell had 134 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood – the drink drive limit is 80 milligrams.

Alex said Mrs Russell was no stranger to drinking alcohol and that level ‘was not that much’ to his auntie, who was described as sociable and active, still taking part in zumba and pilates.

A slipper was found halfway up the stairs, which was considered by Mr Wilkinson to be a trip hazard, and thickening of the arteries which could have caused light-headedness.

Concluding the inquest, he said: “It’s a sad situation from what is objectively probably a very simple event.

“On the balance of probabilities, Kay Russell probably fell down the stairs on the evening of the 20th, some time after 7pm, and was found the following day.

“Probably as a result of her imbalance, and/or possibly the effect of alcohol and/or one of the other intervening possibilities like the slipper or the cat.

“Whatever the cause we know it was not intended, it was not foreseen and it was not otherwise avoidable.”