The family of a Midland student whose body featured in a graphic anti-drugs campaign have won a fresh inquest into her death.

Rachel Whitear's parents, from Herefordshire, had argued at a hearing at the High Court in London that there had been a failure to carry out a "full, fair and fearless" investigation into her death.

Her mother and stepfather, Pauline and Mick Holcroft, were in court yesterday as two judges gave the go-ahead for the new inquest.

Their 21-year-old daughter was found dead in a bedsit in Exmouth, Devon, six years ago and an inquest in December 2000 recorded an open verdict, leaving the cause of death as "unascertained".

At the original inquest, the Exeter and East Devon coroner Richard Van Oppen said he was certain Miss Whitear did not die of a drug overdose and recorded the open verdict.

However, no post mortem had been held by Devon and Cornwall Police, which originally investigated the death, and tests revealed there had not been enough heroin in the syringe in Ms Whitear's arm to have killed her.

Her body was exhumed in March 2004 and Wiltshire Police brought in to carry out a fresh inquiry.

A full report into her death was submitted to Dr Elizabeth Earland, Coroner for Exeter and Greater Devon last year, but she decided there were no grounds for a fresh inquest.

The Holcrofts backed a move by Wiltshire Police for a court order overturning the original verdict so a fresh hearing can be held in an attempt to establish a positive cause of death.

Lord Justice Maurice Kay and Mr Justice Bean said the new inquest would be heard before a different coroner in a different district but in the same administrative area as previously.

Afterwards, Mrs Holcroft said: "We are most heartened by today's judgment and feel that this is a fair and just result for Rachel and ourselves.

"Even from the very day that Rachel's body was discovered, we were never entirely happy that everything possible was being done to try and discover exactly why and how she had died.

"There was always a nagging suspicion that her death had been regarded as just one more inconsequential drugs statistic and that she was a bit of a nuisance.

"The feeling intensified when her inquest was held because it was obvious, even to us, that there were a lot of unanswered questions and that no one had any intention of trying to answer them.

"We have had to endure the heartache of the whole distressing story of Rachel's life and death being frequently highlighted during the two-year re-investigation which culminated in the trauma of her being exhumed.

"Now we must wait for the new inquest and it would be improper for us to speculate on any possible conclusion."

She said the family, from Ledbury, had only praise for Chief Superintendent Paul Howlett, of Wiltshire Police, and his team, who had worked so diligently in carrying out the new investigation.

She also thanked the Independent Police Complaints Commission, Devon and Cornwall Police, who had supported the action, her legal team, and family and friends for their "loving encouragement".

Chief Supt Howlett said: "I am delighted with this ruling.

"The fresh inquest will facilitate the further scrutiny of events surrounding Rachel's death together with the new evidence that has come to light.

"It is my hope that this process will enable Rachel's parents to obtain a greater understanding of the circumstances of their daughter's death."