Sudden Adult Death Syndrome killed ‘healthy’ retired milliner from Hemel Hempstead

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A woman who died suddenly while on the phone was found to have an almost perfect bill of health, an inquest heard on Wednesday.

Rowena Marianne Heath, 65, had been talking to her cousin when she suddenly collapsed. Her cousin heard only rustling noises, and the line was engaged when she tried to call back.

Thirty minutes later, classic car fan Ms Heath, of Widmore Drive, Hemel Hempstead, was found with her head near a basket containing wool, which is thought to have caused the rustling. She was not breathing.

Ms Heath was rushed to Watford General Hospital where resuscitation attempts were made, but doctors were unable to revive her. She died on March 6.

A post-mortem on Ms Heath’s body, carried out by pathologist Dr Rowena Smith of West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, revealed nothing unusual about the retired milliner’s health.

She was on no medication, and a toxicology report showed she had no drugs or alcohol in her system.

Ms Heath, who trained in hatmaking at the London College of Fashion before going on to have a successful career including television work, had a family history of epilepsy and was thought to have had a fit in 1990.

Dr Smith conceded that while an epileptic fit or heart arrhythmia could be possible causes of her sudden death, there was not enough evidence to confirm either.

Coroner Edward Thomas told Ms Heath’s sister and other members of her family present at the inquest: “This must have been a terrible shock for you, it was so unexpected and so sad. I am going to say she died of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, and I am satisfied there was no unnatural event.”