A live-in nanny fell down a flight of stairs and died after a heavy drinking session, an inquest heard on Wednesday.
Daren Liker, 58, had only been at the Kensworth home of Daniel and Chrissie French for a fortnight when she was found dead at the bottom of the stairs on August 15 last year.
An inquest held in Ampthill on Wednesday heard that Ms Liker, from Connecticut, USA, had been employed by Mr and Mrs French to help look after their 20-month-old twins Harry and Scarlett.
After being referred through an agency, Ms Liker underwent a trial period and was invited to move into Mr and Mrs French’s home on Church End, Kensworth.
Just a fortnight into her stay, Mrs French found the 58-year-old lying on her face at the foot of the stairs in the morning.
The fall caused her to fracture her neck and skull.
Doctors also conducted toxicology tests which showed that Ms Liker had 293 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood– more than three and a half times the UK drink drive limit.
The inquest heard that at that level an individual would have “marked drunkeness and “signs of unsteadiness”.
A pathology report concluded that ‘alcohol excess intake’ was a secondary cause of Ms Liker’s death.
During a search of the nanny’s bedroom, police found five bottles of vodka.
Mr French told the inquest: “We had no way of knowing she was drinking at all.
“Sometimes she would walk around with sunglasses on in the light but she told us she had a condition called TMD (Temporomandibular disorder) which gave her migraines.
“I put it to one side...she seemed like the ideal solution.”
The inquest heard that in the week running up to her death Ms Liker would often go for long walks in the evening.
She would do this in inclement weather without taking a jacket, Mr French said.
He added: “It is not a short walk from our barn through the fields to the high street, it is half a mile at least.
“I wouldn’t go out without at least a waterproof coat, I was worried for her health.”
Mr French said that on one occasion his wife gave Ms Liker a lift home from Harpenden, after the nanny had gone out for a drink with friends in London.
The inquest heard that Ms Liker told Mrs French she had lost her keys, when in fact they were still in the car.
On another occasion Mr and Mrs French jokingly asked Ms Liker if a bag she was holding contained alcohol.
The 58-year-old told the couple that it was full of ‘snacks’.
Mr French said: “At the time we never suspected it would be anything else.”
Assistant coroner Ian Pears concluded that Ms Liker’s death was an accident.
He told Mr and Mrs French that prior to the inquest his office had been contacted by one of Ms Liker’s former employers, who said that he had dismissed the 58-year-old after catching her “drinking heavily at night”.
Ms Liker’s former employer added that she had been “unsteady on her feet”, Mr Pears said.