Family wins legal challenge to overturn inquest verdict on death of former Sudbury school student Emma Fraser after fall from flat window in Halstead
The family of a former Sudbury school student have won their legal battle to overturn the inquest ruling on her death, stating they had “achieved justice” for her and that she “may now rest in peace”.
The High Court quashed the verdict of Essex Coroner’s Court in the inquest of Emma Fraser, who died on June 28, 2020 after falling from a second-storey flat window in Halstead, and revised the record to rule her death was accidental.
The court upheld the family’s claim, which was aided by legal support charity Advocate, that there was insufficient evidence to conclude her death was drug related or intentional.
Cheryl Fraser, Emma’s mother, said the original verdict was “like a dagger to the heart and a total shock for all our family”, and they were “elated” it had been quashed based on the evidence they had provided.
“After months of litigation between our barristers and the coroner’s legal team, they conceded and we were victorious,” she said.
“Our family will be forever indebted to Advocate, Rory Brown and Harriet Wakeman for their hard work and professionalism. Emma may now rest in peace.”
The November 2020 inquest had ruled that Emma had “launched herself” from the window of the flat in Trinity Court, which he was sharing with three other people, in a “state of drug-fuelled anxiety, paranoia and delusion”.
But, the High Court ordered this ruling be amended, to state that the 33-year-old’s death was accidental, caused by “a fall from height whilst suffering a paranoid delusion”.
The consent order, seen by Suffolk News, found that, while she had smoked some cannabis in the hours before her fall, there was not enough evidence for the coroner to have reached his initial conclusion.
It was also determined that the ex-Sudbury Upper School student did not intend to kill herself but was “seeking to flee from peril”.
Emma’s family have maintained that they believe her death was a result of foul play, and are working to try and have her case re-opened as a criminal investigation.
Her uncle, Karl Mayes, told Suffolk News: “The most important thing is, we have cleared Emma’s name from a verdict that has a clear stigma attached to it.
“Nineteen months after Emma’s death and 13 months after her original inquest verdict, we achieved what we all set out to achieve – justice for Emma.”
He added: “We have sent nearly 200 pieces of evidence to Essex Police and we’re hoping, within the next few weeks, the case is re-opened.
“We had the coroner’s verdict quashed, which is one of the hardest challenges in law, as a coroner’s decision is considered final. That has to make the police take notice.”
Essex Police has stated it found no evidence that Emma’s death was caused by a third party.
However, the force last year admitted failings in how it handled the investigation, while a review by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) also stated lessons must be learned.
An Essex Police spokesman said: “We continue to be in contact with Emma’s family on the circumstances which led to her death.
“Should significant new information come to light, we won’t hesitate to re-open the investigation.”