Tycoon’s daughter dies from a heroin overdose after killing teen cyclist
A British property tycoon’s daughter was found dead from a heroin overdose after she struggled to cope with killing a teenage cyclist and the breakdown of her marriage, an inquest heard.
Hannah James, 37, had injected herself with heroin mixed with a drug she bought on the dark web.
The interior designer was holding a syringe in her right hand when her boyfriend found her body in the bath at her Paris home.
The inquest heard she was left "traumatised" after she fatally struck a 17-year-old cyclist who had crossed in front of her car in Surrey.
Ms James had struggled with drug abuse since her teens, but was rocked by the fatal accident in 2011 and the breakdown of her marriage three years later.
She was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work for mowing down student Joel Semmens two days before his 18th birthday in Byfleet, Surrey, in October 2010.
The designer was charged with failing to stop after an accident and driving with an unsuitable tyre after blood tests showed she was not under the influence of drink or drugs.
Her property tycoon father David said although he and his wife guessed their daughter may be struggling after the accident and divorce, they did not know about the drug addiction.
Westminster Coroners’ Court heard Ms James had previously handed them an envelope to open "in case something happened to her".
It contained seven resuscitation orders from paramedics in 2014 and 2015 following a 999 call by her ex-husband to reported drug overdoses.
Speaking at the inquest, Mr James said: "In late October 2011 Hannah had a driving accident while driving away from a meeting with a client and hit and killed a cyclist aged 17.
"He was crossing the main road without stopping, on an unlit bike wearing dark clothing and no safety gear.
"She was charged that evening with dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs but blood tests proved she was not.
"She was traumatised by the accident. We noticed she was showing signs of depression and noticeably drinking more and, now we know, taking drugs."
Mr James added that his daughter was the youngest of their three children, was born into wealth and was a troubled teenager.
He said: "Despite being expelled from school at 15, having bragged about taking drugs, she was a delightful child with an open and friendly manner.
"She was kind and generous and wished to help others less fortunate than herself.
"In 2000 the James family trust was set up with our children as the beneficiaries with us as the trustees.
"The children would be paid shared dividends and loan interests – which gave Hannah a large annual income."
Mr James said his daughter was "artistic" and had been employed by the family company in 2009 to furnish the luxury properties it rented and sold.
She moved to Paris following the breakdown of her marriage in 2015.
Her father said: "She had been there for about nine months – to get away from all the friends she shared with her ex-husband and come to terms with the failed marriage.
"She seemed cheerful and happy as she had a new boyfriend.
"She invited us to see the apartment and we did in March 2017. We noticed she had lost weight and looked withdrawn.
"We went to a restaurant and she didn’t have an appetite. We thought depression was affecting her as she declined to come to lunch the next day."
Mr James said just a few weeks after returning home from the trip, on March 31, he received a phone call from his daughter’s boyfriend, John Gladwell, who said that she had died.
Mr James added: "There were two envelopes locked in a drawer in Hannah’s former bedroom that she gave to my wife in anything should happen to her.
"It contained seven carbon copies of paramedic response reports from 999 calls by her husband – three from 2014 and four from 2015.
"They stated that resuscitation had been successful and carried out as a consequence of heroin overdose.
"This was the first knowledge we had. When we cleared her apartment we found hypodermic syringes in the bedroom and bathroom."
Mr Gladwell told the inquest he had returned to Paris earlier than planned because he was concerned when Ms James did not respond to text messages.
He and a friend of Ms James’ were due to come over that weekend to visit the Eiffel Tower.
Mr Gladwell said: "We had been together for a year and a half before that. It was quite intense from the start and we got on like a house on fire.
"I was aware of the drug use. I would say it was past recreational. She used coke, heroin.
"I thought it was a couple of weeks before her death that I last saw her. From what she was telling me she was trying not to take drugs any more.
"When I would go there she wouldn’t be on them all the time."
The coroner heard Mr Gladwell and Ms James would order drugs from the dark web, obtaining them from a dealer called the Dream Factory.
They would arrive in unmarked packages through the post, it was said.
Mr Gladwell said: "I would order drugs on the dark web but not necessarily for her, but for us. She ordered them herself.
"I know that I didn’t order the drugs that she used in March because she told me at the time she wasn’t doing anything. So I didn’t even know she had ordered them.
"When I last saw her she was just how I remember her. Her mood was bubbly, it always was. She was a bubbly girl.
"We had fun together, talked a lot and there was nothing that led me to think that there was any problem."
Asked if Ms James had spoken about self-harm, Mr Gladwell replied: "She had struggled with that but not in the time I knew her.
"It was in the past tense – that she had thought things like that before in the past.
"I believe she took the drugs because she wanted to take some drugs, and took too much. I think it was an accident. There’s no doubt in my mind it was an accident."
Mr Gladwell said he arrived at Ms James’ apartment earlier on in the day than planned on March 31 because he had not been able to contact her since March 29.
When he arrived, there was no answer at the door and he tried for 45 minutes to get in – including alerting the locksmith next door who was also unable to gain entry.
The Fire Brigade were called and broke into the apartment through a kitchen window, discovering Ms James semi-submerged in the bath holding a syringe in her right hand.
French police reports said a substance left in the syringe was analysed and found to contain heroin and fentanyl.
Two resealable plastic bags containing a brownish substance were also found to be in the apartment – and tested positive for both.
A post-mortem report gave Ms James’ cause of death as multiple drug toxicity.
Coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox said doctors had found a moderate level of fentanyl in Ms James’ system, which a pathologist noted was "stronger than morphine and can be abnormally injurious".
She said: "In particular fentanyl is known to be fatally dangerous and in my experience as a coroner this has led to unexpected deaths."
Dr Wilcox gave a verdict of an accidental death due to drug-related misadventure.
She said: "Hannah was clearly a vivacious, intelligent and artistic young woman whose life was sadly utterly blighted by addiction to drugs.
"This started in her teens and she’s clearly gone on to struggle with it for the rest of her life."
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