Mother talks about heartbreak in inquest into her 30-year-old daughter who died in hospital while pregnant

The sister of murdered British backpacker Hannah Witheridge was pregnant when she died in hospital after years of complications following surgery, a judicial inquiry has found.

Miss Witheridge, 23, of Norfolk, was found dead on a beach in Thailand on September 15, 2014 and her sister Laura Daniels, 30, died on September 16, 2019 at Southampton General Hospital.

A study in Portsmouth, attended virtually by her widower Lewis Daniels and parents Tony and Sue Witheridge, learned that Ms Daniels had surgery in 2011 for the rare condition trigeminal neuralgia, which causes facial pain.

Laura pictured with her husband, Lewis Daniels. An inquest has heard that Ms. Daniels underwent surgery in 2011 for the rare condition of trigeminal neuralgia,

An undated file composite handout photo made available by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office shows British students Hannah Witheridge (left) and David Miller (right), who were found murdered on September 15, 2014 on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand

An undated file composite handout photo made available by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office shows British students Hannah Witheridge (left) and David Miller (right), who were found murdered on September 15, 2014 on the island of Koh Tao in Thailand

Ms Witheridge wept at one point during the hearing, saying, “You’re losing a daughter, you don’t expect to lose another.”

Robert MacFarlane, a consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said the surgery involved an opening in her skull to access the nerve.

He said Ms. Daniels had “a variety of problems” afterward, including spinal fluid leaking through the wound, and required multiple surgeries.

Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp, area coroner for Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton, summed up Mr McFarlane’s evidence: ‘Laura had a relatively rare condition, especially for someone her age, for which the options are medication, which some people don’t get with, or surgery.

“The surgery was effective, but she did have complications.”

Mr McFarlane said Ms Daniels was “concerned about the potential side effects (of medication) if she were to start a family in the future.”

She began treatment at Southampton General Hospital in 2015 and received her first admission while studying locally.

Aabir Chakraborty, a consultant neurosurgeon at the hospital, said she was being treated for hydrocephalus — a buildup of fluid in the brain.

He said, “It just felt so unfair that she kept having these issues.”

When asked by the coroner if he was shocked by Ms. Daniels’ sudden death, he said, “I’ll be honest, I was devastated. It was horrible.’

He said Mrs. Daniels was pregnant at the time.

He said he didn’t know what caused her death and, addressing Ms Daniels’ family, added, “I’m sorry.”

The coroner said to him, “I don’t think you could have done more than you did.”

In a postmortem examination, Ms. Daniels’ cause of death was determined as undetermined.

Ms Rhodes-Kemp postponed the investigation until August 11 to hear documentary evidence and reach a conclusion, as there was insufficient time to do so on Monday.

The bodies of Miss Witheridge and 24-year-old David Miller, from Jersey, were found in 2014 on the holiday island of Koh Tao.

They had arrived in Thailand separately and met at the hotel where they were staying.

Sue Witheridge with her husband Tony, Laura and Lewis at Hannah Witheridge's funeral in St Marys Church, Hemsby, Norfolk

Sue Witheridge with her husband Tony, Laura and Lewis at Hannah Witheridge’s funeral in St Marys Church, Hemsby, Norfolk

Two Burmese migrants convicted of the murders were reduced to life imprisonment in 2020.

Wai Phyo and Zaw Lin had denied murdering Mr. Miller and raping and murdering Mrs. Witheridge.

Lawyers for the two men had alleged that the evidence used against them in the case had been mishandled and they forcibly made confessions that they later retracted, raising questions about the competence of the police and the judicial system in Thailand.

Human Rights Watch called the verdict “deeply disturbing” at the time, citing allegations of police torture by the defendants that were never investigated and questionable DNA evidence linking them to the crime.

But Thailand’s Supreme Court upheld the convictions.

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