[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Fresh inquest into Whitear death
Rachel Whitear
The image of Rachel Whitear's body was used in an anti-drugs campaign
A fresh inquest will be held into the death of student Rachel Whitear whose body, found in a Devon bedsit, featured in a graphic anti-drugs campaign.

Ms Whitear, 21, of Herefordshire, was found in May 2000 holding a needle after an apparent overdose.

A coroner recorded an open verdict, but the High Court has agreed to a request by Wiltshire Police for a new inquest.

Her mother, Pauline Holcroft said the High Court judgment was a "fair and just result for Rachel and ourselves".

Wiltshire Police carried out a fresh inquiry into Ms Whitear's death after criticism of the Devon force's investigation.

'New evidence'

Wiltshire detectives said in 2004 that they had found no evidence of foul play, but that toxicological tests indicated the death was heroin-related.

Exeter and Greater Devon District Coroner Dr Elizabeth Earland decided last year against a request for a new inquest, but the High Court in London overturned that decision on Wednesday.

We were never entirely happy that everything possible was being done to try and discover exactly why and how she had died
Pauline Holcroft

Officers from the Devon and Cornwall Police force originally investigated the death without a post-mortem examination.

They were criticised for lack of thoroughness by Ms Whitear's parents.

Russell Fortt, counsel for Chief Superintendent Paul Howlett of Wiltshire Police, told the court there had been a "highly material failure to carry out reliable toxicology tests which was compounded by the failure to carry out a post-mortem".

He said that a significant body of evidence now existed which was not previously before the coroner.

He said: "There are reasonably strong grounds to suggest that the verdict may well be different as a consequence of the new evidence."

Rachel's family submitted to the court that there had not been a "full, fair and fearless investigation" into the death.

'Unanswered questions'

It was agreed that the new inquest will be heard before a different coroner in a different district but in the same administrative area as previously.

Devon and Cornwall police and the Independent Police Complaints Commissioner for the South West welcomed the court decision on Wednesday.

Rachel Whitear's mother Pauline and her stepfather, Mick Holcroft
Her parents suspected the death was treated as another statistic

After the judgment, Mrs Holcroft said: "Even from the very day that Rachel's body was discovered, we were never entirely happy that everything possible was being done to try and discover exactly why and how she had died.

"There was always a nagging suspicion that her death had been regarded as just one more inconsequential drugs statistic and that she was a bit of a nuisance.

"The feeling intensified when her inquest was held because it was obvious, even to us, that there were a lot of unanswered questions and that no-one had any intention of trying to answer them.

"We have had to endure the heartache of the whole distressing story of Rachel's life and death being frequently highlighted during the two-year re-investigation which culminated in the trauma of her being exhumed."

Images of Rachel's body in the bedsit were published after her mother and stepfather, Mick Holcroft, agreed to release them as part of an anti-drugs campaign.

The photographs led to people raising concerns as to the cause of her death.

The hopes of Rachel's mother ahead of the fresh inquest

Date set for Whitear inquest plea
22 Sep 06 |  Hereford/Worcs
Plea for second Whitear inquest
21 Apr 06 |  Hereford/Worcs
No 'third party' in Rachel death
03 Aug 04 |  England
'No evidence' Rachel was murdered
23 Mar 04 |  Hereford/Worcs

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific