Death of woman aged just 26 in Wellingborough homeless hostel attributed to cocaine abuse

An ombudsman has found Chereen Scotland received ‘good support’
The Seen and Heard hostel, formerly the Euro Hotel, in Midland Road, Wellingborough where Ms Scotland died. Image: Kate Cronin / National WorldThe Seen and Heard hostel, formerly the Euro Hotel, in Midland Road, Wellingborough where Ms Scotland died. Image: Kate Cronin / National World
The Seen and Heard hostel, formerly the Euro Hotel, in Midland Road, Wellingborough where Ms Scotland died. Image: Kate Cronin / National World

A young woman who was found dead in a Wellingborough hostel for the homeless died after taking too much cocaine, an independent review has ruled.

Chereen Scotland, otherwise known as Gloria, was just 26-years-old when she was released from HMP Peterborough on August 4, 2022.

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Two days later she was found dead by a pal at the Seen and Heard hostel, which was named in honour of the previous death of another homeless man, Jonathan Upex.

When people die within 14 days of release from prison, the Prisons & Probation Ombudsman investigates the circumstances of their death.

Their report, which has now been publicly released, showed that mother-of-three Ms Scotland had significant struggles with substance abuse and had been an intermittent rough sleeper in Wellingborough over previous years.

But the ombudsman found that nothing more could have been done to prevent Ms Scotland’s relapse into using drugs following her release from prison.

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She had a history of overdoses, substance misuse and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2020.

Because of these circumstances, she was released from prison under Section 117 of the mental health act which afforded her a network of support from the authorities upon her release.

Due to the risk of harm she was managed using Adult Risk Management (ARM) processes, where agencies work collaboratively to support exceptionally high risk people.

The report said that two professionals had found Ms Scotland to be under the influence of drugs in meetings in advance of her sentencing hearing. On May 6 she was sentenced to six months in prison for knife possession and was ordered to serve half of the sentence before being released.

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No substance misuse issues were noticed during her stay in prison but Ms Scotland refused to engage with substance abuse staff. She told staff her mental wellbeing was suffering because her children were no longer in her care.

On 31 May, the local authority rough sleeper outreach worker and a community probation practitioner visited Ms Scotland in prison, to introduce themselves and explain their roles in supporting her.

She told them she was having ‘good days and bad days’.

Before her release, she was told that she would have access to methadone if she engaged with substance misuse workers in the community.

But she did not do so and so no appointment could be arranged.

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After her release on August 4 she was accompanied to the Seen and Heard in Midland Road by the outreach worker and probation practitioner.

She withdrew all her money from the bank on the way and then they left her at the accommodation with a plan to meet at the probation office later.

But when Ms Scotland turned up she was apparently intoxicated. She also later refused to take a drug test, which was part of her licence conditions.

On August 6, Ms Scotland went to a friend’s room in the Seen and Heard. She told her friend she had taken crack cocaine and pregabalin earlier that day. She started falling asleep. Her friend watched her until they both fell asleep at about 5am. He woke up to find that Ms Scotland had been sick and was unresponsive. He began CPR then alerted the security guards who called the ambulance, but Ms Scotland had died.

A post-mortem concluded she died of cocaine toxicity.

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The report said: “We found that she was offered good support from prison and probation professionals, both prior to and after her release from prison, but that she did not engage with them as they would have wanted.

"This included her declining to seek assistance from the community substance misuse team on her release from prison.

“There was good practice in the utilisation of staff with whom Ms Scotland was familiar and regular discussion between professionals on release preparation and risk management for Ms Scotland in the community.

"We do not think any more could have been done to support Ms Scotland or prevent her lapse into drug use.”

An inquest in September 2023 ruled that Ms Scotland’s death was an accident.

The Seen and Heard is mooted for closure next month.

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