Fatal drug dose find after body exhumed

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 12/01/2013

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A Marton woman whose family thought she had died of natural causes had to be exhumed after fatal levels of methadone were found in her system.

Paula Miriam Rink, 49, was discovered dead in bed at her home on August 28, 2010.

Initially it was thought Mrs Rink, who had been in bad health for most of her life and suffered from diabetes, had died of benign causes.

But in a report released yesterday, coroner Carla na Nagara said the results of a toxicology report that arrived after Mrs Rink was buried showed a lethal dose of methadone in her system.

Mrs Rink was not on the methadone programme and her family were not aware of her using the drug, so her body was exhumed for further examination.

This confirmed the methadone presence and revealed Mrs Rink had used it at least once a month for the previous six months before she died.

Multiple puncture marks of various ages on her left forearm, consistent with intravenous drug use, were also discovered, some of which may have been as recent as hours or days before she died.

The night before her death Mrs Rink had been unwell and refused to eat the dinner cooked by her husband.

But about 10pm Mrs Rink's close friend, Barnett Henderson, arrived at the house.

During the evening he was able to encourage her to eat a little dinner, before leaving in the early hours of August 28.

Mr Henderson, who has been on the methadone programme for several years, denied giving Mrs Rink the drug and said she had her own source in the Wairarapa township of Featherston.

One witness alleged he had seen Mr Henderson inject Mrs Rink with methadone in the past but this was denied.

Ms na Nagara said the suggestion that someone had supplied or administered methadone was a serious allegation and the standard of proof could not be met.

"While the evidence, and circumstances, do seem to point towards Mr Henderson having supplied Mrs Rink the methadone that killed her, the evidence is not compelling, and it falls significantly short of the threshold required for a finding in that regard."

Ms na Nagara ruled Mrs Rink's death to be accidental, the result of an unintended overdose.

Alcohol and drug counsellor Roger Brooking said many types of opiates such as morphine and methadone were relatively easy to come by.

Mrs Rink's family could not be contacted yesterday.

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- The Dominion Post

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