Domestic abuse victim struggled to breathe – inquest
A WOMAN who survived being strangled by her abusive fiancé and left for dead at a beauty spot died after being found unresponsive at her mother’s home aged 40, an inquest heard.
Stacey Gwilliam, from Swansea, had struggled to move on from her awful ordeal and died of a combination of pneumonia and the effects of taking prescribed medication and non-prescribed drugs, the hearing was told.
Ms Gwilliam, from Townhill, was physically and mentally scarred after being attacked by her ex-partner in 2015 and lived with anxiety, depression and fear following the incident. She also had a wide range of physical health problems.
Last year Ms Gwilliam complained to her GP and her family that she was struggling to breathe. A day later she was found unresponsive at her mother’s house and, despite the best efforts of police officers who attended the property and medics at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, Ms Gwilliam was pronounced dead.
As a child Ms Gwilliam was “well-liked” by her friends and peers and she enjoyed school, the inquest at Swansea Guildhall heard yesterday. But as a teenager she entered a relationship which soon turned abusive and also experienced further abuse in later relationships, the inquest was told.
Ms Gwilliam’s ex-fiancé Keith Hughes is currently serving life in prison for attacking Ms Gwilliam by strangling her and burying her alive near Bracelet Bay in Gower in 2015.
The inquest heard that over the course of Ms Gwilliam and Hughes’ long-term relationship Ms Gwilliam was abused by Hughes on several occasions and was also raped by him and imprisoned in his home. On one occasion Ms Gwilliam was forced to jump out of a first-floor window to get away from Hughes when he locked her in his property.
Ms Gwilliam also faced a catalogue of health problems in her adult life. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2013. She also regularly complained of issues breathing since being diagnosed with severe asthma as a child, the inquest heard.
Ms Gwilliam and Hughes’ relationship first ended in 2013 after he was jailed for three years and nine months for three assaults on Ms Gwilliam and one count of false imprisonment. But she wrote to Hughes in prison and the couple got back together. When Hughes was released in July 2015 Ms Gwilliam agreed to marry him.
But the couple’s relationship soon turned sour again and within weeks of Hughes’ release from prison Ms Gwilliam went into Swansea city centre with the intention of selling her engagement ring. Hughes spotted her and followed her around and an argument ensued.
The couple eventually left the city centre and went on to Gower, the inquest heard. Ms Gwilliam decided to drive to Bracelet Bay as she thought it would be busy there and she’d be “safe” with people around. But there was no-one at Bracelet Bay at the time they arrived and Hughes attacked her.
The inquest heard Hughes strangled Ms Gwilliam and “tried to break her neck” before leaving her for dead on the ground. It’s believed she was unconscious for a time before she woke up and attempted to free herself from earth piled on top of her by clawing her way out with her fingernails.
Ms Gwilliam then ran onto a nearby road and was spotted by two passers-by who took her to a nearby building and called the police. She was then rushed to hospital and spent around two weeks in a coma and a further 12 days receiving medical care. She was eventually released from hospital and allowed to return to her home to recover.
Later a brick was thrown through a window at Ms Gwilliam’s home. The inquest heard the brick was thrown by an expartner of Hughes. As a result Ms Gwilliam decided to move into her mother’s home to help her with her recovery.
Over the next six years Ms Gwilliam struggled with her physical and mental health. She had been prescribed painkillers and antidepressants but was also selfmedicating with other drugs to ease her symptoms and also regularly complained to her family that she would struggle to breathe.
In 2020 Ms Gwilliam entered into a new relationship but this soon turned sour. During an argument her partner told her she “deserved” everything she had experienced previously with Hughes, the inquest was told.
Over the course of 2021 Ms Gwilliam struggled with her asthma, a chest infection, and multiple organ failures.
She also experienced mental health issues including depression and anxiety disorder with panic attacks and took prescribed medication as well as drugs she ordered online. She also took anti-sickness tablets to help her manage her physical symptoms but it was said these “made her worse”.
In November 2021 Ms Gwilliam’s sister found her sibling “unresponsive in the middle of the bed” at their mother’s home in Townhill and immediately called 999. Police attended and took Ms Gwilliam to Morriston Hospital.
PC Thomas Paul Evans of South Wales Police told the inquest attending officers found no evidence of any suspicious circumstances and no evidence to suggest Ms Gwilliam had tried to take her own life. Despite the best efforts of medical staff Ms Gwilliam died in hospital on November 27, 2021.
The inquest heard that the medical cause of death given by the toxicologist was bronchial pneumonia and combined drug toxicity.
Acting senior coroner Colin Phillips accepted this cause of death and remarked that what he had heard during the inquest was a “terribly sad account”.
He expressed his heartfelt condolences to the family of Ms Gwilliam and recorded a conclusion of accidental death.