Yorkshire mother, 49, died after she bought animal euthanasia drugs 15 years after she had last worked as a vet

A mother of three was found dead after re-registering as a vet for the first time in 12 years so that she could buy euthanasia drugs normally used on animals, an inquest has heard.

Sarah Jane Bromiley, 49, stopped practicing as a veterinary surgeon in 2008 after she had her first child, and instead began working as a practice manager at her husband’s dental surgery in Ripon.

However, in 2020 she began the process of reactivating her registration with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and was later able to order restricted medication to her home address.

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An inquest at North Yorkshire Coroner’s Court was told that Mrs Bromiley’s body was found in a house in Ripon that she and her husband had bought for his parents to stay in while visiting them on May 22 last year. She had left notes addressed to her family and the coroner stating that her death was a suicide.

North Yorkshire Coroner's Court, NorthallertonNorth Yorkshire Coroner's Court, Northallerton
North Yorkshire Coroner's Court, Northallerton

The notes said that she had taken her own life because of ‘grief’ rather than mental illness and that she suspected she had PTSD.

She had intravenously administered a fatal dose of controlled drugs normally used to euthanise animals, which the hearing was told had ‘hardly any’ use in British medicine.

Her husband of 24 years, Dr Roger Bromiley, raised concerns at the inquest over why his wife was able to register their family home on Rutland Drive in Harrogate as a vet’s surgery and why it had not been given an official inspection before her death.

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Dr Bromiley broke into the property on Red Hills Road in Ripon after becoming concerned that she had not turned up for work, but told police that she often stayed at the house when she wanted time to herself.

Evidence was heard from wholesaler National Veterinary Services, with whom Mrs Bromiley had set up an account. She made two main orders from the company, in 2021 and the spring of 2023, and was given the medication after filling in a mandatory requisition form for controlled drugs. On the second occasion, she collected her order herself from the NVS site in Stoke-on-Trent after claiming she needed the items ‘urgently’ for an emergency.

The NVS used a database to verify that Mrs Bromiley was registered as a UK practicing vet with the Royal College and that her premises were an approved practice.

Mrs Bromiley’s GP, Dr Hannah Thomas, said that in the three years leading up to her death, she had had numerous appointments, referrals and tests relating to a number of symptoms, including chest pain, fatigue, breathlessness, loin and ear pain, excessive thirst and hunger. Various causes had been investigated but the only condition she had been diagnosed with and treated for was a cyst in her jaw. A neurologist had considered that she may have had long Covid, and despite appearing ‘distressed and tearful’ at consultations, she refused a referral to mental health services. No evidence of disease was found at postmortem.

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Giving evidence, Dr Bromiley, who said he was only vaguely aware his wife was considering updating her professional accreditation, said: “Regulations need to be amended to make it harder for vets to get hold of medication. Vets have far greater access to lethal drugs than doctors or dentists. She was qualified but she wasn’t working as a vet. Should you need a second signatory to order drugs?

"Medics have to be inspected, their storage of drugs is inspected. My house is not a vet’s surgery and it has never been inspected. It has a safe but that safe never had drugs in it. The address she gave was not a vet’s and there were no safety checks.”

National Veterinary Services representative Mark Gidlow confirmed that his staff had checked both Mrs Bromiley’s registration and that of her practice, and that she would not have been able to access controlled drugs without these certifications. He added that a vet giving their home address would be assumed to be working on a mobile basis, as is common in rural areas. Although she gave the address of the Ripon house when she made her first order in 2021, she had changed it to Harrogate by 2023 and checks were conducted again.

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons registrar Eleanor Ferguson confirmed that Mrs Bromiley first joined the register in 1988, and was inactive from 2008 until she contacted them in October 2020 regarding returning to the register. In 2021, she told the Royal College that her business plan was to provide euthanasia services to small animals and horses from home and wanted the Ripon address to become registered premises.

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The RCVS notified the Veterinary Medications Directorate, the body responsible for inspecting surgeries, as Mrs Bromiley had declined to join the Royal College’s voluntary standards scheme.

In January 2022, she told the RCVS that she was planning to use both properties, and that she did not plan to see clients at home but would store drugs at the Harrogate address.

No further contact was had until February 2023, when she applied for and was given approval for the family home to become a registered practice. The Directorate were again notified, on the understanding that surgeries are inspected on a four-year cycle unless non-compliant.

Assistant coroner Catherine Cundy described the evidence as an ‘incomplete picture’ as she required further information from the VMD about their inspection procedures.

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"They are a key player and I will request information from them. I am considering a conclusion of suicide, but there are potential issues around the inspections of these smaller premises and I want to give them the chance to comment.”

The hearing was adjourned until March.