The son of a retired teacher who was told to avoid alcohol or she would die has told of his regret that he did not force her to see a doctor before she was found dead, an inquest heard today.

Linda Harding was found dead on her bed at the home she shared with her son David in Stoney Grove, Chesham, on September 29.

The death of the 68-year-old initially sparked a murder investigation, with Thames Valley Police officers arresting a 41-year-old man in connection with the case.

The man was released without charge and the murder investigation was dropped.  

David Harding told an inquest at Buckinghamshire Coroner’s Court on Wednesday that his mother, who would drink alcohol “steadily”, had been feeling unwell for around a week before her death and would spend a lot of time in bed.

At around 10.30am on September 29, he went up to her bedroom and found his mother “unresponsive and cold to the touch” before calling 999.

Describing the events before her death, he told the court: “She hadn’t been well for a long time. For the last two weeks she had been going to bed earlier and earlier and she would call if she needed anything.

“She hated going to the doctors and I had been trying to plead with her to go. She would tell me she was alright and that she just had a bug.

“It is soul-destroying for me because I should have acted earlier and got her seen to. She knew she shouldn’t be drinking but it was the one thing that kept her sane. I never said you can’t drink anymore.”

Mr Harding said he was “between a rock and a hard place” because his mother, who struggled with mobility issues, did not want to see a doctor.

He said: “I should have been calling the doctor. I had my auntie on the phone the day before and she said ‘David, get her to the hospital because she doesn’t sound well.’

“I have had a lot of bad thoughts since she died – why didn’t I take her to the doctors?”

Dr Nicholas Hunt, forensic pathologist, said a definitive cause of death could not be determined.

There was evidence of cirrhosis of the liver and low levels of alcohol in her urine, but “nothing to explain her death”.

He added: “She had pinpoint blood spots on her face and when we see this, it can be a result of an asphyxial episode, including strangulation, but there was no evidence of anyone applying pressure to her neck.

“It can develop by smothering, or if they are in the face down position at the time of death. It could also be as a result of vomiting, but we have no definitive answer.”

Dr Hunt confirmed that while Ms Harding had been found by her son laying on her back, she had been face down in the body bag.

Detective Inspector Phil Jones, from the Major Crime Unit, said Ms Harding’s medical records revealed she had been given a diagnosis of cirrhosis in 2010.

He said: “She was told she must avoid alcohol or she would die.

“Our investigation was thorough and there was nothing to indicate that there had been foul play.”

Senior coroner, Crispin Butler, recorded an open conclusion.