Polly Riddell death: Earlier treatment may have saved life

A coroner has found an Otago woman may have survived if she had received medical attention earlier.

Polly Anna Arabella Ruth Riddell, 40, died on October 16, 2018 after consuming a lethal cocktail of non-prescribed drugs.

Coroner Marcus Elliott’s final findings were completed in chambers and found the death was accidental.

The Dunedin property where Ms Riddell died was occupied by Karl Longshaw, who did not call police until the woman was unresponsive.

“I think my partner is dead,” he told police.

The findings explained that Longshaw was suspicious his partner had taken drugs the day before her death but decided to monitor her himself.

When he became concerned about her state, he ensured her airway was clear but did not call for help.

An hour later, at 5.58pm on October 16, he finally called 111.

The 67-year-old was charged with manslaughter in relation to Ms Riddell’s death.

In October last year Justice Jonathan Eaton sentenced Longshaw to seven and a-half months’ home detention after pleading guilty to an alternative charge of neglect.

“The call for assistance should have been made hours earlier, immediately once Ms Riddell was unresponsive,” Justice Eaton said.

“A simple 111 phone call when you could not rouse Ms Riddell would have discharged your legal duty.”

Polly Riddell died on October 16, 2018 after consuming a lethal cocktail of non-prescribed drugs....
Polly Riddell died on October 16, 2018 after consuming a lethal cocktail of non-prescribed drugs. File photo
The coroner found Ms Riddell self-administered methadone, MDMA and morphine in the evening of October 15.

She had also recently consumed zopiclone, diazepam, pregabalin and tramadol.

“The combined effect of these drugs resulted in depressant action on Ms Riddell’s nervous system and she became unresponsive,” the coroner found.

Coroner Elliott said while the death was “accidental”, Ms Riddell may have lived if she had received appropriate attention earlier.

“Ms Riddell may have survived if she had received appropriate medical treatment soon after she became non-responsive and developed respiratory compromise,” he said.

Ms Riddell had a history of anxiety, depression, drug addiction and overdoses and undertaking methadone programmes.

However, her doctor advised that in the year before her death Ms Riddell had an “optimistic air about her”. 

“Her mental outlook during the year prior to her death had been greatly improved and was much more positive, with no suicidal ideation articulated,” the doctor said.

Ms Riddell’s mother and ex-judge Rosemary Riddell described her daughter as "a shy child who grew into an adult alternatively introverted and ferocious".

"One day I’d like to remember Polly simply with love, and not grief," she said.