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The Reading Chronicle
Published: 24 Jul 2013 17:00
MYSTERY surrounds the death of a young woman who suffered a fatal fall at an office Christmas party.
Danielle Cooke, 22, fell down a staircase on December 22 at Reading’s Millenium Madejski Hotel.
At an inquest last Thursday, Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford said there were three possibilities for Miss Cooke’s death, suicide, accident or third party involvement. He ruled out anyone else being involved and, recording an open verdict, said he could not be certain beyond reasonable doubt that she took her own life.
Miss Cooke, of Claverdon, Birch Hill, who worked at Maidenhead’s Atkinson & Keene estate agents was with boyfriend Alex Lloyd and around 380 guests at the Romans group Christmas party. The couple had booked to stay the night at the hotel.
The Windsor court was told Miss Cooke had drunk “five or six” large glasses of wine and had 263mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood – more than three times the legal driving limit.
Her father, Paul Cooke, told the inquest: “I think the amount of alcohol she had, she really didn’t know what she was doing.”
During the evening Miss Cooke confronted her regional manager Richard O’Neill after failing to win an award for which she was shortlisted. They both had hearing problems and were close together as they spoke in the noisy bar and, in Mr Lloyd’s own words, that made him “jealous and frustrated”.
The couple argued and, after a second argument, Miss Cooke went to their room at 12.18am. Her body was found with multiple injuries at the foot of a stairwell at the southern end of the hotel at 12.30am.
Police have been unable to account for the missing 12 minutes but Mr Bedford said CCTV footage showed Mr Lloyd having a cigarette at 12.27am and he was not in the vicinity when the tragedy occurred.
Miss Cooke had harmed herself on two occasions and had a history of taking anti-depressant tablets. In April 2005 she was taken to hospital after swallowing 23 paracetemol tablets and two cans of cider and in 2010 stabbed herself in the stomach – but on both occasions she rang a relative to tell them what had happened.