A family has paid tribute to a “very positive person” who died days after becoming the victim of a serious sexual assault.
Winnie Smith, aged 81, of St Andrews Lane, Houghton Regis, died in a care home nine days after a man forced his way into her home, subjected her to an attack lasting up to 45 minutes and then left her on the hall floor. It took her a further hour to be able to reach a phone and call for help.
Miss Smith, who had worked in the print industry, was already suffering from heart failure and acute liver cancer.
She also had pressure sores on her back as a result of the attack.
A forensic pathologist told the coroner’s court at Ampthill today that her medical condition meant that she could have died at any time. But he could not categorically say that her attack was a direct cause of her death.
Miss Smith was moved to the Sharnbrook Care Home in Houghton Regis after the attack, and died on March 27 this year.
Her family told the court Miss Smith was a very positive person and independent.
The eldest of four girls, the family were close, they said.
Sister Mrs Betty Cook said of the attack: “Afterwards it just really destroyed her.”
Senior Coronor Tom Osborne said: “Prior to Winnie’s death she was subjected to an attack. From that moment Winnie was never the same person. Although she was seriously ill there’s no doubt her imobility added to her cause of death.”
Recording a narrative conclusion he said Winnie died of natural causes following an assault nine days prior to her death which rendered her immobile
Darren Emerson aged 40 who lived in a residential home in Houghton Regis, admitted the sex assault and was detained in a secure hospital under Section 37 of the Mental Health Act in August this year.
On March 18 this year he had made sexually aggressive remarks to a young woman in the street before spotting Miss Smith watching television through her window. He knocked on her door and then forced his way in before attacking her.