Inquest Into Mother & Daughter Deaths

25 March 2011, 15:23 | Updated: 25 March 2011, 15:25

A devoted mum who spent her life caring for her severely disabled daughter, collapsed and died at their home, leaving the young woman to die a lingering death.

For years Stephania Wolf had resisted all offers of help in the care of her daughter Samantha, who was confined to a wheelchair.

Fiercely independent, Stephania refused to allow carers to come into the house and spurned offers of help from social workers.

But it meant that when Polish born Stephania, 67, suddenly died at their bungalow home last July, Samantha, 29, found herself trapped in the home in her wheelchair and unable to raise help.

On July 31 last year the alarm was finally raised when a leaflet distributor calling at the detached house in Wheathampstead, Herts., noticed scores of flies in the window and a terrible smell coming from the letterbox.

Today at an inquest into the deaths of the women, Assistant Deputy Coroner Doctor Frances Cranfield, recorded verdicts that the mother died from natural causes and that her daughter then died later due to her inability to care for herself.

Outside the court in Hatfield, Herts., after the hearing, Samantha's half sister Karina Jones said that she had been given "some closure" by the inquest's findings and now had a better understanding of what had happened.

She went on:  "However, I don't want anyone to suffer the way Samantha did in her last days."

She said that being a proud and strong woman, her mother had refused help from everyone.

But she said she thought that it was important for disabled people like her sister to be able to raise the alarm and alert people if emergencies occurred.

Karina confirmed that there was no alarm system in the house last July.

Stephania had moved to the UK 25 years ago with her second husband and, in 1981, Samantha was born.

However, the birth wasn't simple and she was starved of oxygen.  As a result she suffered from epilepsy and heart problems.

As a child, she had some mobility, but as she got older she became confined to a wheelchair and was unable to care for herself.

She communicated by pointing.

When Stephania's marriage broke up, she became sole carer for Samantha and the inquest was told how, over the years, the mother refused all offers of help to look after her daughter.

The house had been adapted for her daughter's needs, but she wouldn't allow carers in to help her and refused offers of respite care for her.

Over the years, the mother and daughter became increasingly isolated, both from the various agencies that were offering help, as well as neighbours.

Their detached bungalow style house in Marford Road, Wheathampstead, sat behind tall conifer trees and they had little contact outside of it.

The coroner was told that Stephania continued to resist all offers of help, which she saw as an intrusion.

The court was told that Samantha was always well dressed, neat and tidy and appeared to be happy.

The pair's home was also kept immaculately clean and tidy, along with the gardens.

However, Stephania's diary - found after her death - revealed she was suffering weakness, chest pains and aching legs and was frequently having to lie down in the days leading up to her death.

The pair were last seen in Wheathampstead outside a chemist shop on July 12 last year.

On Saturday July 31, a leaflet distributor called at the house and noticed a smell coming from the letterbox, as well as flies in the window.

Police were alerted and an officer managed to get into the property through a window.

Stephania was found lying dead on a bed in a downstairs bedroom, while Samantha was found lying on the floor close to her wheelchair.

A post mortem carried out on the mother revealed the cause of death to be unascertainable due to decomposition.  However, there was no sign of third party involvement or any violence and no toxicological evidence.

It was also impossible to ascertain the cause of death for Samantha due to decomposition.

The pathologist noted that she appeared to have fallen while trying to get out of her wheelchair and it was quite possible that she died from "lack of care"following the death of her mother, including dehydration.