Booze bus anxiety precedes death

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 15:34 26/03/2013

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Severe anxiety is likely one of the causes a 56-year-old woman’s death while being breathtested by police on a booze bus last year.

Elizabeth Gill Gilbertson, who had only lived in New Zealand for six months after emigrating from Johannesburg, was only 200m from home when she was stopped by police during a routine traffic stop on Cambridge Rd on June 3.

In a Coroner's Court inquest before Coroner Gordon Matenga this morning, Constable Anthony McFarlane testified that he saw Gilbertson's blue Nissan approaching the stop at speed from the Cobham Dr end of Cambridge Rd.

He said she initially made no attempt to slow or stop and drove through the checkpoint, stopping about 15m further on.

Gilbertson admitted having a couple of wines with dinner, but she didn't appear drunk, Constable McFarlane said.

After alcohol was detected on her breath she was then asked to blow into a tube. After about three or four unsuccessful attempts, Constable McFarlane then asked her to carry out an evidential breath test inside the bus.

She again failed to blow enough breath, between two and five times.

He said he could tell she was nervous, but her attempts to correctly complete procedures seemed at times feeble.

As Constable McFarlane turned to throw away the tube he heard Gilbertson groan or sigh and saw her slide off the bench seat she was sitting on and collapsed on to her left hand side onto the floor.

Blood began coming from a wound to her head.

An ambulance was called and CPR began and carried on for about half an hour before she was pronounced dead.

A reviewed pathologist’s report, completed by Dr Simon Stables, found Gilbertson died of a culmination of extreme anxiety, which increased heart rhythm, coupled with an amount of heart disease.

One of her arteries was 75 per cent blocked, he said.

Gilbertson's brother, Dr Ian Gilbertson and his wife, Linda were present at the inquest. Also there were her sister, Marion Morris and husband Richard with their daughter Nicola.

Dr Gilbertson told the Coroner that he had no doubt his sister would have been "terrified" by being stopped.

Miss Gilbertson had been the victim of muggings and threats back in her South African home town and was a very shy, timid, private woman.

"It was just her nature. She was someone who has never done anything wrong in her life and was an extremely anxious person by nature."

Outside the court room, Morris said her sister had worked as a bank clerk her whole life before settling on an early retirement and emigrating to Hamilton to be closer to family, just six months before her death.

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She had also just begun volunteering at the Hospice shop on northern Victoria St and enjoyed the walk as she always felt safe, compared to being at home.

The family praised the efforts by police and St John staff in trying to resuscitate her and did not blame the police for what happened.

The Coroner reserved his decision, but said he would release his findings later today or tomorrow.

- Waikato Times

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