A coroner has told jury members they cannot rule that a Bilston woman hit by a tram was unlawfully killed.
Geraint Williams said the outcome of the two-week inquest into the death of 30-year-old Cheryl Flanagan could be only either that she died as the result of an accident, or an open verdict.
Earlier in the hearing, the court heard Worcestershire coroner Mr Williams relate how Miss Flanagan’s mother Valerie had claimed that Cheryl’s recently estranged partner Ian Bracey, then a police constable, “did something which caused her daughter’s death”.
But the coroner told the four man-four woman jury they may take the view that Miss Flanagan, a civilian police worker who had just broken off her engagement to Mr Bracey, may have taken a course of action which “inadvertently took a turn that led to death”.
This could include stumbling, tripping or falling on the Metro line, causing her to fall unconscious, Mr Williams said.
Mr Bracey had been arrested on suspicion of murder after Miss Flanagan’s death in December 2003 near The Crescent Metro stop, in Bilston, but was later released without charge.
The court heard that the pair had had a blistering row on a bridge above the tracks. Mr Bracey said he walked away after going to retrieve his scarf, which had been thrown onto the line by Miss Flanagan, and told the court he had not witnessed his ex-partner’s death.
The handling of the case by British Transport Police was described in the first week as “a shambles” by the coroner, with an ambulance being called an hour after the incident, scenes of crime officers being kept away by senior officers, and CCTV footage lost.
Mr Williams added that the jury may have found evidence given by Insp Jeanne Arnold, commander on the night, “terrifying and appalling” and said potentially crucial evidence was missing.
He told the jury: “Counsel in this case could properly have objected to all this evidence [about the police’s handling of the case] being put before you as it happened after the death of Miss Flanagan, but it forms the reason why you don’t have everything that you should have.”
He said the jury should deliver an open verdict if it felt there was insufficient evidence to rule the death was an accident.