Inquest: Pregnant Army Major Died In Sleep

A "fit and healthy'' pregnant young army major died suddenly in her sleep just weeks before the birth of her baby daughter, an inquest heard today.

Lesley Boden went to bed at her home in West Wellow, Hampshire, but suffered an unexplained cardiac death called sudden adult death syndrome (SADS), which also killed her unborn daughter, Rosina Eleanor.

At the time of her death in May this year, Ms Boden, who was based at 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Marchwood, Hampshire, was seven and a half months pregnant.

Her pregnancy had been "reassuringly normal'' with no problems, the hearing in Winchester was told.

The 33-year-old had spoken to her partner Richard Wade and her mother Angela on the evening before she was found dead, and all was well.

In a short statement Mr Wade, who is also an army major in the 2nd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, said he had spoken to her on Skype on May 15 because he was then based in Cyprus.

"We talked about the baby and me coming home in a few days' time. Nothing was out of the normal. Lesley appeared happy and in good health,'' he said.

The alarm was raised when work colleagues could not get hold her on May 16 and Sergeant Major Mark Watson and Lieutenant Rachel Gibbs went to her house and broke in.

In a statement, Mr Watson said the pair searched the house calling Ms Boden's name before they went upstairs and into a bedroom where he saw a ruffled duvet and said he smelt the smell of death.

"I could see Leslie Boden on the bed,'' he explained. "She looked to be sleeping, her eyes were closed and she seemed peaceful. She was cold to the touch.''

Mr Watson noticed some skin discolouration and riger mortis and could not find a pulse and told his officer: "Do not come in. You do not need to see this.''

He then said he covered Ms Boden with her duvet and said: "Rest Lesley'' and 999 was called.

She had been dead for at least six hours, the hearing was told.

Pathologist Adnan Al-Badri said he could find no problems or infection in all of Ms Boden's organs and tests showed there was no alcohol or drugs in her system.

The baby and its placenta were also completely normal with no signs of problems or infection, the hearing was told.

"I could not find a cause for Lesley's sudden death having examined all her organs and having examined the baby and the placenta,'' he explained.

"We do not know really what she died of but the most likely cause is a sudden cardiac death and the reason for that is that we ruled out any other cause of her death.

"Although her heart looked normal that does not rule out problems with the electric conduction of the heart that can cause death.

"And the fact that the lungs had fluid in them shows that the final process is the heart stopping.''

He added: "Sudden Adult Death Syndrome is a group of conditions that can cause sudden death in adults. They are caused by an abnormality of the rhythms of the heart.''

The expert said that this can be hereditary or acquired, but medicine cannot be precise how and when the condition will strike.

He added that he did not believe that Ms Boden being pregnant had any effect on what happened.

Recording a verdict of death by natural causes caused by sudden unexpected maternal/adult death, Central Hampshire Coroner Grahame Short said: "It's a clearly very sad death of an apparently fit and healthy woman in the last stages of a pregnancy which makes the loss even harder because her daughter died in utero at the same time.''

He explained that no underlying condition or problem had been found and added to Mr Wade and Ms Boden's mother and family: "I realise that this is not altogether satisfactory but I have to accept that, within the limitations of medical knowledge at this time, it's not always possible to be absolutely specific.''

The family of Ms Boden and Mr Wade released a statement after the hearing which said: "The sudden death of Lesley has devastated us.

"She was a loving caring, intelligent and beautiful young woman who was looking forward to the birth of her baby girl in a few weeks' time.''

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