Inquest into death of Beer rider halted

An inquest into the death of a Beer horse rider was adjourned after criticism from her son into the investigation.

Paul Ashley, the son of Gillian Ashley, argued with the coroner over whether enough effort had been made to discover why his mother had come off her horse and died last September.

Dr Earland, sitting at Devon County Hall, said Mr Ashley’s questioning was inappropriate for an inquest and, in an unusual step, adjourned the proceedings before delivering her verdict.

Beforehand, Mrs Ashley’s family had heard how on the morning of September 30, 2010, the 60 year-old went to see her partner Bob Chudley in the village shop they ran together for four years, and told him she was going horse riding.

She then drove to where her horse was stabled and went riding on the Paizen Lane pathway from Beer to Branscombe around 10.30am.

She was expected back at around 12.30pm, but the coroner read out a witness statement from a holiday-maker, who, along with his wife, came across an un-mounted horse on the path around that time.

About 300 yards up the lane they discovered the body of the mother of three, who was wearing protective body armour and a riding helmet, lying on her back.

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She was unconscious and appeared not to be breathing, and the emergency services were called. The holiday-makers attempted to resuscitate her, as did the local first response officer and PC Steve Speariett who arrived before the paramedics.

But the attempts were unsuccessful, and by 1pm she was declared deceased.

A post mortem carried out the following day at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital concluded she had suffered a broken neck in a fall from her horse, fracturing her spine despite her protective clothing.

A report from the coroner said she had no significant previous medical history, and was not on any medication. She was an accomplished rider and the horse had been praised for its good temperament.

But after Dr Earland announced she had all the information she needed to reach a verdict, Paul Ashley argued an investigation into the cause of his mother’s fall from her mount had not been thorough enough.

The coroner dismissed these claims, saying if he had a complaint with the police he should take it up with them and the inquest was not the correct forum, and called a halt to the inquest without a verdict.