THE TRAGIC death of Rachel Whitear in May 2000 from an apparent drugs overdose was used as evidence of the need for more laws against drugs.
The pictures of her bloated body, bent double alongside a discarded heroin syringe, are among the best-known anti-drug images.
Secondary school children throughout Britain were shown a video called Rachel’s Story, made by the dead woman’s family and friends as a warning to others.
Devon and Cornwall police treated the case as a routine overdose. No postmortem was ordered, and the dead woman’s body was returned for burial before toxicology tests had been completed.
But the case was turned upside down when a Devon coroner told an inquest he was “certain” she did not die of an overdose because the level of heroin in her blood was too low.
That was three years ago. Since then a new inquiry has been set up, which has reportedly uncovered evidence of police incompetence.
Rachel’s mother, Pauline Holcroft, said, “Devon police’s handling of the case beggars belief.
“If they had done their job properly and done a postmortem we would know what Rachel died of. I suspect they decided it was an open and shut case.”