Family left with ‘no answers’ after teen’s death

PUBLISHED: 08:00 16 February 2015

Courtney Towler.

Courtney Towler.


A FAMILY has been left with ‘no answers’ after a coroner concluded the sudden death of their ‘happy’ teenage daughter was the result of a lethal dose of an antidepressant drug – with the 16-year-old’s intentions still unknown.

Courtney Towler went to bed as normal on October 5 last year but the next morning, when her grandmother Jackie Howlett went into her bedroom to wake her for college, she couldn’t be roused.

A toxicology report found the teen had high levels of dothiepin in her system, a drug usually prescribed as an antidepressant, but Courtney’s stepmother, Angela Young, said the teen’s death makes ‘no sense’.

She said: “We have no answers. There won’t be any because nobody knows what happened.

“It just doesn’t make sense, she showed no signs of wanting to take her own life. Why would you spend hours doing your homework for the next day? She was planning her life out for university.

“Jackie suffers with MS and she looked after her. It makes no sense. She wouldn’t do that to Granny.”

Courtney, a former Hans Price Academy pupil, was studying health and social care at Weston College and had been helping her sister move into a new flat the weekend she died.

A statement from Ms Howlett was read to the court, and said: “We had a normal day.

“She helped her (sister) move in and in the afternoon we took the dog for a walk.

“I can offer no explanation as to why she might deliberately harm herself.”

The initial post mortem, carried out by Dr John Oxley a consultant at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, found no evidence of an obvious cause of death.

Blood and urine samples were sent to the hospital’s toxicology department for further analysis and found 4.52 miligrams of dothiepin in Courtney’s system.

Toxicology expert Peter Beresford said: “Typically any level up to 0.3 miligrams is seen in therapy use.

“Fatalities have occurred in levels greater than around one miligram per litre, so a level of four is well above the threshold.”

Dr Oxley said: “There are toxic symptoms; she would have displayed some of them if she was taking the pills gradually. She wouldn’t have been completely normal.

“I suspect she took a big dose before bed. It was not borderline toxic, it was a high toxicity.”

At Flax Bourton Coroner’s Court on Monday senior coroner Marla Voisin concluded: “Courtney Towler died at 8.20am on October 6, 2014 in Severn Road in Weston.

“She died due to the toxic affects of dothiepin. Her intention when taking this medication is unknown.”

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