A HAMPSHIRE woman was eaten by her own dogs after her dead body lay undiscovered for days, an inquest heard.

Noelle Baynham, 61, was found dead in January after a suspected collapse at her house in Winchester.

A concerned friend discovered the “horrifying” scene of Ms Baynham’s mutilated body, after no one answered the front door.

The inquest could not determine how she died, despite evidence of a drug overdose, because the animals, who were unable to get out of the house, ate parts of her vital organs.

Winchester Coroner’s Court heard how Grant Donovan rang Ms Baynham’s doorbell in Limetree Walk, Winnall, on January 17.

The dogs, a Jack Russell and Staffordshire Bull Terrier, barked and jumped at the door but there was no other answer.

Mr Donovan entered through an unlocked back door to find the house covered in dog faeces. Ms Baynham’s body was found on the landing.

“This was the most horrifying thing I have ever seen,” he said in a statement read to the inquest.

“I could not look at her long, so I just came away and called 999.”

Detectives searched the scene but could not find evidence of foul play.

Ms Baynham, a former jeweller, was in her dressing gown and had run a bath. Scratch marks on her chest indicated the dogs may have tried to wake her, DC Wesley Arnold told Winchester Coroner’s Court.

Home Office pathologist Dr Amanda Jeffery told the inquest that she had probably died “a few days” before she was found.

But the dogs complicated the post-mortem examination by eating organs which could have held the key to explaining her death.

Dr Jeffery said Ms Baynham was likely to have been killed by the “combined effect” a variety of drugs found in her system, possibly an overdose or build-up of drugs over time.

“It could have been so many other things,” she added.

Ms Baynham suffered from bipolar disorder and chronic alcoholism and was prescribed a variety of medication. Blood tests found a range of drugs in her system including potentially toxic levels of painkillers.

Senior central Hampshire coroner Grahame Short recorded an open verdict. He ruled there was no evidence of suicide or an accidental fall, but said Ms Baynham may have had a stroke.

“The horrific element in this case is what happened after death rather than before, and it’s entirely plausible that when there are dogs in the house with no one to care for them, that they will then start to eat her remains.

“That clearly was a major hindrance to Dr Jeffery in her examination, and as she’s explained, she was not able to look at her important organs and she could not establish a clear cause of death.

“I have to say there’s no sign to say this was a deliberate overdose. There can come a point where [the drug level over time is] just too high and one pill too many can tip over the balance.”

After the inquest, her brother, Simon, told the Daily Echo: “Noelle is much missed by her loving brothers, Simon and Mark.”

The dogs were subsequently put down on the advice of police officers.