Jodie Potter inquest: Yorkshire recruitment consultant, 34, died after taking just a small amount of cocaine - but family question scope of police investigation
Doncaster Coroner’s Court was told that both the family of Jodie Potter, 34, and South Yorkshire Police initially had suspicions about the circumstances of her death after she was found in the living room of her home in Bessacarr on April 4.
Miss Potter, who had been promoted at work just days before she passed away, had recently begun a new relationship with a man she had loaned a large amount of money to, and family and friends had noticed she seemed anxious, had lost weight, was not eating and was experiencing regular headaches.
Her new boyfriend, plasterer Lewis Grix, said she had been ‘grey, shaking and ill’ the day before she died and had even asked to go to hospital, but did not fully explain why he had not sought medical attention and did not stay the night at the home she shared with her three-year-old daughter. She was found by her stepmother the next morning.
However, a postmortem established no other cause of death apart from the likelihood that she had suffered a seizure and disruption of her cardiac rhythm due to an adverse reaction to cocaine, a small amount of which was found in her system.
Although Miss Potter’s parents questioned forensic pathologist Dr Charles Wilson about the presence of bruising on her limbs, Dr Wilson replied that they were what he would expect someone to sustain through ‘daily living’ and that only bruises on the face and neck area would cause concern. There was no evidence that Miss Potter had been assaulted before she died or forced to ingest cocaine.
Miss Potter, who had only returned to her home city of Doncaster in 2021 after living in Australia for several years, was otherwise healthy with no significant medical history.
Dr Wilson said he suspected she was one of only around 840 people who die due to cocaine each year in the UK – just 0.07 per cent of users – as the drug has a propensity to cause seizures which some people are more at risk of developing.
Miss Potter, who was privately educated at Hill House School in Doncaster and attended a performing arts college before moving abroad to work in real estate, had no known issues with drugs or alcohol. Her best friend, Gemma Stones, told police that she had not known her to take cocaine since they had been to festivals in their 20s. Mr Grix said he suspected she had taken the drug on a work night out in Bawtry in March, but she denied this when he asked her. Messages recovered from her mobile phone included conversations about cocaine between 2019 and 2021, but there were no more recent references to the drug.
Her mother Gaynor Waddington, a nurse who now runs an aesthetics clinic in Bawtry, said that her daughter was active and regularly went to the gym. She believed Miss Potter’s alcohol intake had increased after she separated from her child’s father at the end of 2022, and had some concerns about the amount of paracetamol she habitually took.
They spoke on April 3, and Miss Potter seemed normal during the call and did not say she felt unwell. She did not answer messages that evening, and Mrs Waddington became worried the following day. She added: “Lewis knew she was ill but he didn’t tell anyone. This was totally out of character for Jodie. A large amount of money was taken from Jodie’s bank account, and there is a bigger picture here. She had lost a stone in weight. There are missing pieces in this jigsaw. We weren’t listened to by the police and we feel totally let down.”
The officer originally in charge of the investigation into Miss Potter’s death was ‘abrupt’ towards the family and did not stay in contact with them, leading to an official complaint being made. She has since left the force. Mrs Waddington’s husband Chris, Miss Potter’s stepfather, also questioned why police did not interview Lewis Grix under caution.
Miss Stones, who had known Miss Potter for 15 years, said she seemed ‘absolutely besotted’ with Mr Grix, but that she knew the couple had argued about money and that Miss Potter had loaned him money. The reasons Mr Grix gave for needing the cash were that his boss was not paying him and he needed to pay maintenance for his children from a previous relationship.
Although Miss Stones did not believe Miss Potter was unhappy about the loans, she had noticed her friend seemed more anxious, was taking more painkillers and was not eating much. She described her as ‘an outgoing, funny girl and the life and soul’.
Mr Grix did give two statements to South Yorkshire Police, the second after the case had been passed from the original officer to Detective Constable Alex Owens. He said the couple had been out for lunch on April 2 and she had drunk four glasses of wine. On the Monday, she ‘didn’t look well’ and called in sick. They ‘dismissed’ the suggestion she should go to hospital, despite Miss Potter saying her chest felt tight. He left the house, but returned around 7.30pm. She was still pale and shaking, but told him she did not wish him to stay.
Mr Grix claimed he had never seen his girlfriend take cocaine and they had not done so together, although he had a history of drug use himself. On the subject of the money, he said she 'never said she minded’ loaning it to him and that after her death he agreed to repay it into a fund for her daughter’s future. However, the Waddingtons confirmed that he had never done so and that they had struggled to contact him since.
Evidence was heard from Detective Inspector Claire Moss, who was called to Miss Potter’s home as there was ‘concern’ arond the circumstances of her death and no apparent cause. Although there were no signs of disturbance, DI Moss did say she noticed that two mobile phones were plugged in, but that one was not fully charged, which she would have expected it to be if Miss Potter had died the previous night, when she had stopped responding to messages from her family.
No drugs were found at the property and a neighbour’s CCTV showed no suspicious movements. DC Owens’ check of Miss Potter’s bank statements traced 14 transactions to Mr Grix, but she found no evidence of any threats or coercion surrounding the loans.
Mrs Waddington added that it was ‘highly unusual’ that her daughter had not told her she felt ill and questioned why Mr Grix had not taken her to hospital.
Adding that it could not be ascertained whether Miss Potter could have been saved if medical help had been sought sooner, assistant coroner Marilyn Whittle recorded a conclusion of drugs-related death and added: “No other cause of death was found. There is evidence she had taken cocaine recreationally previously, and though there was not an excessive amount, the toxicity caused her death.”