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Woman died from hypothermia after getting trapped in airing cupboard during Mid Wales holiday

Mid Wales | News | Published:

Elizabeth Isherwood could have been trying to escape from the cupboard for days, the inquest heard.

The entrance to Plas Talgarth holiday complex, where Elizabeth Mary Isherwood died. Photo: Google

A woman died on holiday in Mid Wales after getting trapped naked in an airing cupboard, an inquest heard.

Elizabeth Mary Isherwood, aged 60, used shelves and a pipe to try to break free after the cupboard's door knob fell off but died of hypothermia, Caernarfon coroner's court was told.

A pathologist said the part-time care worker from Wolverhampton could have been in the cupboard trying to escape for days.

Mrs Isherwood's death was accelerated by the fact she was naked and had been sprayed with water from the broken pipe. Her body was found by a maintenance worker after water poured through a ceiling.

'Very confined'

The inquest heard how Mrs Isherwood had arrived at Plas Talgarth holiday complex near Machynlleth alone, on September 23 last year, and knew the apartment from previous visits.

“What I believe happened is some time during the night or during the morning she had got up and gone to the bathroom,” Mr Pritchard Jones said.

“From there she went to the airing cupboard.”

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The door opened inwards and it closed behind her. The cupboard was a 'very confined space', he added.

Mr Pritchard Jones said the round part of the door knob seemed to have come off the internal mechanism which was still attached to the door and she couldn’t turn the door spindle.

“Being unable to turn the lock and realising she was trapped and there was no light, at some stage she first of all pulled the shelves off. Whether she used them to try and get out, I can’t say.

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“What she did do was she pulled the copper piping and a piece was broken off.

"This was used to try initially to open the door because there were marks on the door but also used to try and break a hole through the wall of the airing cupboard.

“I believe she knocked some of the plaster of one wall to find blocks behind.”

Mrs Isherwood managed to make a hole completely through another wall but on the other side of that wall was a picture, Mr Pritchard Jones explained.

"I think the presence of the picture meant she didn’t realise. She probably thought she couldn’t get out.”

Sprayed by water

The coroner said water would have been flowing through the airing cupboard, spraying everything inside.

“What I am unable to make a finding on is the timing of all of this.

"I am satisfied she occupied the flat on September 23. She wasn’t seen after that.

"My belief is what happened, being locked in the airing cupboard, happened during the night of the 23rd-24th and more than likely during the early hours of the 24th.

“I don’t know how long she was in the cupboard. She was a fit lady.”

He added :”The cause of all this was the failure of the knob in the airing cupboard door.”

Death by misadventure

The coroner recorded a conclusion of misadventure because of “the sheer bad luck that the knob disintegrated while Mrs Isherwood was in the cupboard, although I can’t say why she was there.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers told the coroner :“I can’t tell you when she went in that cupboard but she may well have been in there a number of days trying to get out.

"Whether she’s somehow gone in the wrong door, got confused, who knows? But she’s entered that airing cupboard and the door has closed behind her.”

She had been in complete darkness and naked. The door opened inwards and she had been unable to kick the door outwards.

Dr Rodgers declared :”The cause of her death is hypothermia.”

It had been accelerated by her being naked, stuck in a cupboard and sprayed by water.

He didn’t know how long she had been trying to dig herself out through the walls.

Detective Constable Gareth Wilcox Jones said the occupier of another apartment had heard a 'series of thuds' possibly on Sunday night but hadn’t reported them.

“She may have been dead by the Monday. It could have been more protracted,” Dr Rodgers said.

Family members made no comment as they left the hearing on Tuesday.

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