Woman “addicted to her husband” died from overdose after discovering affair

Sarah-Jane Cunningham. Picture: Kim Dodd

Sarah-Jane Cunningham. Picture: Kim Dodd - Credit: Archant

A woman who was 'addicted to her husband' died from an overdose after discovering he was having an affair with one of her friends, an inquest has heard.

Sarah-Jane Cunningham. Picture: Kim Dodd

Sarah-Jane Cunningham. Picture: Kim Dodd - Credit: Archant

Sarah-Jane Cunningham had been tackling two 'destructive' relationships - with alcohol and her partner - when she was admitted to hospital following overdoses in 2015 and 2016.

And the day after being released from hospital on the second occasion, the 38-year-old, of George Hill, Old Catton, passed away at her home on July 23 last year having taken a further overdose.

Area coroner Yvonne Blake today could not conclude Mrs Cunningham died by suicide, instead finding her death was drug and alcohol related.

Norfolk Coroner's Court heard from Mrs Cunningham's sister, Kim Dodd, who described her relationship with husband Stuart as destructive.

'She was addicted to her husband. They brought out the worst in each other but she would not leave him because she could not cope without him,' she said.

After Mr Cunningham was involved in a motorcycle accident in 2014, Mrs Dodd said he changed and suffered post traumatic stress disorder.

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'He had anger management issues after he had his accident. Her problems made his problems worse and they rubbed each other up the wrong way a lot.'

Miriam Isaac, clinical team leader at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, met Mrs Cunningham after her overdose in October 2015.

'It became quite apparent alcohol was a big feature of both her and her husband's life at the time,' she said.

'The overdose was an attempt to communicate to her husband her frustrations rather than an attempt to die.'

The inquest heard Mrs Cunningham had been engaging with Norfolk Recovery Partnership and the wellbeing service at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust.

An NSFT community mental health practitioner said following a referral in 2010, Mrs Cunningham exhibited 'severe anxiety' and thoughts of ending her life, but described it as a 'cry for help' following three bereavements, including her father in 2008.

Teresa Church, a friend of Mrs Cunningham, had been in contact with her on the evening before her death, and described how her husband's new partner had sent her 'naked pictures of them'.

'She knew he was having an affair'.

Mrs Dodd added her sister's discharge from hospital on July 23 was 'not their fault' as she 'knew what she needed to say to get let out'.

Lessons learned

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust conducted a serious incident requiring investigation report, which found there was no root cause under the control of the Trust which led to Mrs Cunningham's death, but outlined lessons learned.

Nurse Daniel Fisher, who wrote the report, said he had recommended recording of alcohol intake is routinely taken in units rather than type of alcohol, and there should be greater access to electronic patient notes across the Trust.

After the inquest, Mrs Dodd said: 'The outcome today was never going to bring my beautiful sister back, but I was pleased to find out that out of the terrible situation some good has come in the fact that the procedures and policies of the mental health team are being changed to ensure that other people like my sister do not slip through the net.

'By sharing the information between the different departments I believe will really help to give other people like her an increased support.'