Stephanie Sillifant, 18, from Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, had only been a Fresher at Newcastle University for two days when she died on 4 October 2020.
Her death coincided with three others in the area within 48 hours: 18-year-old Newcastle University student Jeni Larmour, 21-year-old Northumbria University student Nathaniel Pavlovic and 18-year-old Mark Johnston from Washington.
This prompted Northumbria Police to issue a drugs warning and opened an investigation into allegations that drugs including ketamine had been circulating in the city’s universities at the beginning of the 20/21 academic year.
Also at this time, university students reported that drug dealers in the Newcastle area had been slipping business cards under the doors of flats in private accommodations shortly after they arrived at university, suggesting they were targeting Freshers.
An inquest heard the medical student had diabetes and epilepsy and concluded that she died of natural causes, the tragic event caused by either one of her conditions or a combination of both, despite her having monitored her medications.
Pathologist Dr. Peter Cooper told the inquest that toxicology tests found a “very low level of alcohol” and no traces of illicit drugs, including ketamine, in her system at the time of death.
Detective Constable Lucy Joyce from Northumbria Police told the hearing that students who shared Stephanie’s Park View accommodation said she was “anti-drugs” and “nobody had witnessed her taking drugs”.
Coroner Karen Dilks said it was “clear from the evidence heard that she was compliant with her medical regime” and that she “did not consume any substance at all causing these tragic events”.
She concluded “this was a young girl who tragically died because of pre-existing medical conditions”, before passing on her condolences to Stephanie’s mother, who followed the proceedings by videolink.