The tragic death of talented Rachel Whitear today remains a mystery seven years after her body was found crouched on the floor of her bedsit with a capped syringe in her hand.

The 21-year-old Bath Spa University drop out had been in the bedsit in Pound Street, Exmouth, Devon, just a day - as part of a bid to come off drugs.

The inquest was the culmination of a seven year battle by Miss Whitear’s mother and stepfather, Pauline and Mike Holcroft, from Ledbury, Herefordshire, for a fresh inquest into her death. The first hearing in December 2000, for which there was no post mortem report, recorded an open verdict.

Following complaints from Mrs Holcroft about the original Devon and Cornwall police investigation, Wiltshire police re-examined the death. After a post mortem and tests were carried out on the student’s exhumed body in 2004, the High Court last year ordered a new inquest.

The police who conducted the initial investigation into Miss Whitear’s death, the original coroner and the pathologist were strongly criticised by Mrs Holcroft and her husband Mick after the hearing today.

She said: "We know that we aren’t here to apportion blame for the death of our daughter, but we cannot ignore the fact that the reason we are here at all is because of the incompetence of those officers from Devon and Cornwall Police who attended the scene when Rachel’s body was discovered.

"We believe this was compounded by the outright negligence of the coroner, his office and the pathologist."

During the inquest in Exeter, Devon, questions were asked about whether Rachel, a heroin user, was alone on the night she died, whether she or someone else had injected her, whether the syringe in her hand was the one used, and whether her body had been moved after death.

"There are many things we are unable to explain, we have been unable to satisfactorily explain the circumstances as to how her death occurred," said Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Howlett, who led the Wiltshire police re-investigation into the death.

During the days of evidence it emerged Rachel loved football and the piano - she reached grade eight - but for years also abused a variety of drugs.

According to friend Polly North - who knew her from the age of 11 - she began experimenting with drugs from the age of 14.

She started with cannabis, and later took speed and Ecstasy at the time she was taking her A-levels.

But Rachel still managed to pass two A-levels - and had the choice of six universities.

She chose Bath and started her studies in the summer of 1999.

When she was 18 she met Luke Fitzgerald who introduced her to heroin - which became a bond between them.

Her friend Ms North said there was a "triangular relationship" - Rachel, Mr Fitzgerald and heroin.

Her stepfather Mick Holcroft, from Ledbury, Herefordshire, accused Mr Fitzgerald if being lazy and living off Rachel.

By January, 2000. Rachel, who had been brought up in the Hereford area, was living with Mr Fitzgerald in a flat in Lyndhurst Road, Exmouth.

She told her Exmouth drug counsellor William Gardner that she wanted to come off heroin - and realised she would have to end her relationship with Luke Fitzgerald to do so.

At her last meeting with Mr Gardner on May 10, 2000 - the day it is thought she later died - she seemed "happy and upbeat" about her new life in the bedsit she had just moved into.

And Sean McMahon, who called at the shop when she was working on May 9 to help her move in, said "she seemed positive and relieved at moving".

He said she was "happy at starting a new life".

Just why that new life lasted just another day is a mystery to which the inquest provided no conclusive answers.