THE family of a young mum who died from a so-called “legal high” have said they will never know the full details of her death after the man who supplied the lethal drug was not called to give evidence at her inquest.
Lucy Simms died after taking the drug that was given to her by convicted rapist and drug offender Lloyd Phillips and which has since been banned.
Although Phillips was the last person to see the mum-of-one alive a coroner decided he did not need to face questions about her final hours – despite him initially being arrested on suspicion of murdering the 26-year-old from Southampton.
The family had their hopes were pinned on Phillips attending the inquest.
But despite the coroner himself questioning his account of what happened in Lucy’s final hours he was not called to explain what happened.
That decision has been slammed by Lucy’s ex-partner and father of her child, who has branded it “unjust”.
The inquest was held at Winchester Crown Court in order to facilitate hearing from Phillips, who is currently serving a lengthy jail term.
The hearing concluded that Lucy’s death had been accidental after she had taken a so-called legal high called APB given to her by Phillips – which was banned six days after she died in June last year.
Evidence from Detective Sergeant Gareth Jones revealed that Lucy, 26, had been experimenting with various drugs in a bid to “create the perfect buzz” and that she had kept a diary which methodically recorded her experiments and how the drugs affected her.
The inquest did hear two statements from Phillips outlining his version of events surrounding her death.
Describing Lucy as his girlfriend he said the pair had been in a relationship for a few months following her split from Gary. Phillips said Lucy had taken a second “bomb” of a legal high – known as APB – during the evening before she was found dead.
He said she had waved him off from her home in Vinery Road, Shirley, but that when he returned the next morning he found her dead on her bedroom floor wrapped in electronic cables.
He admitted to police that before calling 999 he disposed of the APB powder down the sink and thrown away the bags because he “panicked”.
Coroner Grahame Short told the hearing: “I don’t accept that Mr Phillips’ statements give a full account of his involvement but I am satisfied that he did give Lucy APB, which was not a criminal act at that time.”
He said that despite his concerns about Phillips’ account, he believed it did not alter the circumstances of her death.
However, Lucy’s ex-partner Gary Willoughby told the Daily Echo that he had wanted Phillips to be at least questioned about the inconsistencies in his version of events surrounding Lucy’s death and has been left with many questions unanswered.
He said: “It’s unjust. Surely this man has a responsibility to answer questions about what happened, he was the last one to see her alive and he admitted in his statement that he dis posed of the drugs at Lucy’s house before calling the police when he found her.
“There are many inconsistencies in his statements and the coroner himself said he wasn’t satisfied that things added up, so why was there no opportunity to question him?
“Lucy was vulnerable and suffering from mental health problems and I believe Phillips had a negative effect on her life.
“She told friends that she was going through a tough time, that she felt alone and she fell under his influence.”
The coroner’s office would not be drawn on why Phillips had not given evidence via video link from prison, as Lucy’s family had been expecting, simply saying that it was the coroner’s decision and adding that there had been some technical difficulties.
As exclusively revealed by the Echo, Phillips, the former owner of a shop that sold so-called “legal highs”, was arrested on suspicion of Lucy’s murder.
At the time he was on bail for raping and drugging a young woman, for which he was later convicted and jailed for 11 years, along with other drugs charges.
No further action has been taken by police concerning the death of Lucy.
A post-mortem revealed that the cables wrapped around Lucy’s abdomen and neck had not caused any injury but their “purpose” could not be explained.
Pathologist Russell Delaney said he found 80 marks of injury on her body but that these were small bruises and abrasions which had occurred at various times and were “not indicative” of a violent episode of assault.
He said he could not be certain about the exact time of her death but concluded that it would have been the night before she was found.
Coroner Mr Short concluded that there was no evidence to suggest a third party had forced Lucy, whom he described as “vulnerable”, to swallow the drug and that it was best described as an “experiment that went wrong”.
He added: “I find that the evidence shows that Lucy did not intend to end her life but rather that she did not fully understand the effects of the drugs she was taking.”
After the inquest Gary said that Lucy had never regularly taken drugs during their five-year relationship and that it had only become a recent thing as she struggled with depression.
He said: “This wasn’t a case of a reckless woman taking an accidental overdose. She was suffering from mental health issues and she was vulnerable and needed more support.
“She was a loving mother to our daughter and always tried to put her first. Our daughter was her heart and soul.
“She was trying to put her life back together but got caught in a downward spiral.”