Mystery of mum-of-three found dead in bed after celebrating her birthday

A mum-of-three was found dead in bed by her new boyfriend after she invited him over to celebrate her birthday the night before, an inquest heard.

Alan Bonkem, 35, has told how he made the tragic discovery when his alarm went off at 7am and his partner Cheryl Morris failed to wake up.

He frantically tried to revive the 42-year-old, who died peacefully in her sleep just hours after the couple celebrated her birthday.

But the care worker’s death remains a mystery, with a pathologist unable to identify the precise medical cause.

After Mr Bonkem called 999, paramedics arrived at Miss Morris’ home in Orford, Warrington, Cheshire, but she could not be revived.

It emerged Miss Morris had been poorly the afternoon before her death – but tests showed no signs of a heart attack or organ failure and the cause of her death is a mystery.

The tragedy occurred last March 26, a month after Miss Morris, who had two sons aged 18 and nine and a daughter aged six, began dating Mr Bonkem after she split up with the father of her children in 2016.

Mr Bonkem, a cleaner, told the Warrington inquest: "We had good days and bad days like any relationship. On Sunday March 25 I was working and had arranged to go and see Cheryl afterwards. I stayed with her until the next day at around 3pm in the afternoon.

"During that time Cheryl was feeling unwell and had been vomiting. She was in the toilet quite a lot and she didn’t say about seeking any medical help. I cam back me back about 7pm and we spent the evening together.

"We went to bed about 10pm and stayed awake until shortly after midnight. She was fine at that time. In the middle of the night, I woke up and Cheryl was awake too and again she seemed alright.

"But at 7am in the morning, by looking at her I could immediately realise that something was very badly wrong with her. I tried to wake her and get a response, shaking her and calling her name but there was no response. I called 999 and asked an ambulance to attend and attempted to resuscitate Cheryl."

In a statement, Miss Morris’ friend Helen Murphy told the hearing: "On 26 March I was with Cheryl for about half an hour, hearing about how excited she was about Alan coming round later that evening.

"I called round later on but saw he was there so I decided not to disturb them. The following morning I got a text message saying Cheryl had passed away."

Miss Morris’ mother June added: "She had ups and downs in life, good times and difficult times. Her life was short lived but she was a lovely person and everyone who knew her loved her."

The hearing was told Miss Morris last saw a doctor in 2017 for a skin infection and had no illnesses which could be connected to her death. Tests found a low level of alcohol in Miss Morris’ bloodstream and police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Pathologist Dr Catherine Manson said: "There was no evidence of a heart attack and no abnormalities or significant findings in any of the organ systems.

"I’m not able to ascertain the cause of Cheryl’s death even on the balance of probabilities I don’t have any evidence of an unnatural cause of death so it is likely to be natural."

Recording a conclusion of death by natural causes coroner Peter Sigee said: "During the day before her death, Cheryl had been vomiting but at that time neither he or Cheryl had any concerns.

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"He had spent the evening with Cheryl on her birthday. They had gone to bed about 10pm and gone to sleep shortly after midnight. He describes waking up in the night being hot and said Cheryl had also woken up and appeared to be in good health. He had no concerns for her condition.

"His alarm went off at about 7am and he immediately appreciated something was very wrong with Cheryl so he called the emergency services and attempted to resuscitate Cheryl without success.

"Police officers have assured me that there is no evidence of any suspicious circumstances or any third party involvement. The only positive finding in toxicology tests was a small amount of alcohol in her blood.

"The pathologist was not able to identify the precise medical cause of Cheryl’s death, however she did tell me that it is likely that her death was due to natural causes."

The coroner added: "It has not been possible to determine the cause of Cheryl’s death. I find that she died peacefully in her sleep at her home, I found that it has not been possible to ascertain the medical cause of death but on the balance of probabilities this was a natural death."

Following the tragedy Miss Morris’ children had faced being evicted from their housing association property as she was the sole named tenant on the house but they were allowed to stay after an online petition raised 4,000 signatures.

Her ex-partner Paul Lewis, a furniture fitter who is now looking after the children said at the time: "Cheryl was full of life, and had a lot to say. She was one-of-a-kind, a loving, caring mother.

"She had a lot of friends, and everybody was really upset hearing the news – it is just so sad."

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