Tributes have been paid to a troubled young Derby woman who died after taking illegal slimming pills.
The family of Annie Gresham has spoken out about the death of the 25-year-old, both thanking the NHS and emergency services professionals for their care and criticising the provision of mental health services in the UK.
Medics tried valiantly to save the life of Ms Gresham after she took a highly toxic chemical that is illegally sold as a weight-reduction product but is not licensed for human consumption.
Ms Gresham was found by a passing ambulance crew on a bridge overlooking the A38 on the evening of November 19, 2017, before sadly passing away on November 20.
Annie Gresham, 25, (pictured) died after taking illegal industrial strength slimming pills
A hearing at Derby Coroner’s Court was told that the 25-year-old, from Mickleover, Derby, had a history of mental illness and had previously been diagnosed with anorexia and emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD).
The inquest held on Thursday, January 20, and which was attended by members of Ms Gresham’s family, was told she had been admitted to specialist eating disorder clinics and had been discharged shortly before her death.
Kim and Graham Cooper, Antony Cooper and Ali Whitlam, members of Ms Gresham’s immediate family, told Derbyshire Live: ‘Annie Gresham (nee Cooper) was a much-loved daughter, sister, auntie and friend. She was intelligent, caring, beautiful, and had an amazing sense of humour. We miss her every day.
Beth Shipsey, from Worcestershire, told paramedics she ate several tablets containing industrial fat-burning chemical DNP at home in February
‘We would like to express our sincere thanks to the police, ambulance service and staff at the Royal Derby Accident and Emergency department.
We had frequent contact with all three organisations, and their professionalism, care and compassion have been amazing throughout. We cannot thank them enough.
‘Annie received compassionate care from many individuals in the mental health sector over the years and for this we are truly grateful.
‘What we would like to happen is for the individuals who worked with Annie to examine their decisions and actions, and question whether with hindsight, they would do things differently.
‘Then to remember this next time, for the next patient and their family.
‘In addition we hope that professionals and people in a position of power will challenge the level of care for mental health in this country.
‘In our opinion the system failed Annie and will continue to fail others unless there is a drastic change.’
In his narrative conclusion at the inquest, Peter Nieto, area coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, said that her care was not ‘categorically insufficient’ and that Ms Gresham, who worked in a café, offered ‘no indication’ that she had planned to take her own life.
He said: ‘It was clear that she had consciously taken the tablets on 19 November. That can’t have occurred accidentally.
DNP’s victims: From a 21-year-old bulimic student to a 23-year-old aspiring doctor
Several deaths have involved people in the bodybuilding world or those trying to lose weight.
After the use of DNP was banned in the US after it was linked to heart attacks, the message that the chemical was unsafe seemed to have sunk in.
But in the past decade all that has changed. Since 2002 there have been 33 fatalities linked to the drug.
In 2018, 31-year-old businessman Bernard Rebelo, from east London, was the first person to be convicted of manslaughter in relation to the sale of DNP pills.
Mr Rebelo became a millionaire after selling the ‘weight-loss capsules’ to clients, but he was jailed for seven years after selling them to bulimic student Eloise Parry, who later died.
Bodybuilder Sean Cleathero, a 28-year-old, died at hospital in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, in October 2012 after taking DNP.
In another high-profile case, 23-year-old Sarah Houston tragically died after the medical student consumed a fatal dose of DNP while studying at Leeds University in 2013.
In 2007, 26-year-old Selena Walrond, died after having taken DNP in a bid to lose weight. She too bought the deadly pills over the Internet.
‘But she must have known that there was a high likelihood that she would have been seen [on the bridge over the A38] and therefore she would likely have then been taken to hospital, where she would have received some treatment.
‘Had she taken herself somewhere private, then I think the case would be different.’
‘It is implausible that she would have accidentally taken that number of the tablets and after taking the tablets she went to a low bridge and she would have anticipated being found.’
The court heard that when the ambulance crew stopped they found Ms Gresham wearing her pyjamas and when they tried to get her into the vehicle she made several attempts to run back to the bridge.
The crew took her to Royal Derby Hospital where she revealed she had had self-harmed from the age of 12 and had ‘recently recovered from anorexia’, having most recently been placed at the Leicestershire
Adult Eating Disorder Service at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester from May 22 until October 16, 2017. She later told staff she had taken an overdose of a drug that causes weight loss by burning fat and carbohydrates.
At the hospital she was monitored by medics, but her condition deteriorated and she died the same night.
Mr Nieto, assistant coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, read in evidence that Ms Gresham had a history of mental illness, with self-harm attempts. But he added that her self-harming was ‘impulsive’ and that ‘she would have likely taken the tablets without fully understanding the consequences’.
A ‘farewell note’ was found after Ms Gresham’s death, but Mr Nieto said: ‘The note was not left out in clear view, it was written in a diary or journal which was closed.
‘In terms of the content, although it could be interpreted as a farewell note, it does not contain any mention of suicidal intent.’
Illegal slimming pills containing dinitrophenol have been linked to people trying to lose weight and bodybuilders.
It is an industrial chemical and it is a crime to sell it for human consumption.
There is no known antidote to treat people after they’ve taken it.
A receipt for these pills was found after her death. Ms Gresham, of Fenton Road, Mickleover, had medical cause of death recorded as dinitrophenol fatal toxicity with a background of anorexia and EUPD.
Mr Nieto concluded the hearing by saying to her family: ‘I hope the inquest has been of some help in some way and I give my condolences to you for Annie’s death at such a young age.’
Slimming drugs can kill you
Diet pill dinitrophenol (DNP) has contributed to multiple deaths in the UK
DNP is sold as a weight loss aid, but has been described as ‘extremely dangerous to human health’ by doctors.
It is sold mostly over the internet under a number of different names but contains 2, 4-dinitrophenol.
It is marketed mainly to bodybuilders as a weight loss aid as it is thought to dramatically boost metabolism.
The manufactured drug is yellow and odourless and was previously used as a herbicide and fungicide. It was launched as a slimming aid in the U.S. in the 1930s but then banned in 1938, due to the severe side effects.
Depending on the amount consumed, signs of acute poisoning could include nausea, vomiting, restlessness, flushed skin, sweating, dizziness, headaches, rapid respiration and irregular heartbeat, possibly leading to coma and death.
It has contributed to a significant number of deaths, as well as instances of serious harm to health, in the UK.
Despite its dangers, DNP has gained in popularity among the fitness and bodybuilding communities.
It has also been sold to consumers with eating disorders or body image concerns.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has issued a warning about the dangerous drug.
Source: NHS Networks