A coroner has recorded an open verdict after an inquest into the death of a 17-year-old girl, who suffered fatal injuries after she fell from an upper level of the Grosvenor Centre car park in Northampton almost 10 years ago.
Lauren Elisabeth Eley, 17, who lived in Burtram Close, Weston Favell, died at Northampton General Hospital on December 11, 2004 as a result of “multiple injuries” she suffered after falling an estimated 18 metres from the top of a stairwell.
A two-day inquest at County Hall, which concluded yesterday, heard evidence from Lauren’s family and friends as well as the paramedics who treated her at the scene and police officers that investigated the “unexplained death”.
The inquest heard evidence from Anya Donald, the first emergency responder to reach the scene, who said Lauren, while still conscious, had told her she had not jumped.
Mrs Donald said: “I must have asked her three or four times if she had jumped and she was adamant that she hadn’t. She said she did not know what had happened.”
The inquest also heard evidence from Stephen Henderson, an incident investigation consultant who wrote a report in 2005 analysing Lauren’s fall.
Mr Henderson concluded that Lauren’s injuries were consistent with a fall from the upper level of the multi-storey car park. His analysis of the scene found that Lauren was not “projected away” from the building when she fell.
Mr Henderson said part of her body may have come into contact with the building during the fall and he “could not eliminate” the possibility the fall may have been assisted by another person.
One of the last people to see Lauren alive was her ex-boyfriend, Christopher Pearce, who told the inquest he had travelled into Northampton town centre with her on the day of her death.
Giving evidence, Mr Pearce, of Alexandra Road, Northampton, said he had been in a relationship with Lauren in 2004, but they had split up in the September. Both had found new partners.
Mr Pearce said he had been woken shortly after 3am on December 11, 2004, when Lauren pressed the buzzer to his flat in Kings Heath, Northampton.
He said he had not wanted to let Lauren in, but eventually agreed as she was “not going to go away, so he couldn’t just leave her outside”.
She then stayed with Mr Pearce and they both agreed to travel into town together later that morning.
Mr Pearce said they both got off a bus in Marefair, near the town centre.
He then walked towards Gold Street and later bought some trainers from the JD Sports shop.
Mr Pearce never saw Lauren again.
County coroner Anne Pember said an open verdict was the only appropriate conclusion.
She said: “I am not satisfied Lauren intended to end her life, but I cannot presume her death was accidental.
“I also cannot rule out any third party involvement.”
The parents of Lauren Eley said the inquest had been a “confusing and frustrating” experience.
Ron and Bridget Eley, who still live in Weston Favell, released a short statement after the conclusion of the two-day hearing but said they would be prepared to go into more detail after a period of time for reflection.
The statement read: “The inquest has been very much anticipated for several years; it is an emotional experience and somewhat confusing and frustrating at times.
“The family may not be able to make their feelings known immediately but may be prepared to give a statement after a short time for reflection.”