Woman seen 19 months before body find

Woman seen 19 months before body find

The remains of a woman were found at a derelict house in south Belfast 19 months after she was last seen, an inquest has heard.

Julie Ann Watson, who was 37, was found under a pile of rubbish by workers clearing a house near Donegall Avenue.

Her body was so badly decomposed no cause of death could be determined.

Belfast Coroner Jim Kitson said it was a "desperately sad and tragic case".

"It is also in some ways shocking that the body of a young woman of some 37 years of age can lie undiscovered for a period of 19 months."

Ms Watson had to be identified by DNA records after her remains were found in April 2011, metres from where she lived.

She was last seen alive in August 2009 and her final bank activity was a month later, police said.

A pathologist said the mother-of-three, known to be a heavy drinker, may have died from solvent abuse as an aerosol can was found beside her.

But he could not confirm this because her body was so badly decayed, and the coroner could not determine the ultimate cause of death.

It appears quite clear that Julie's life was out of control and sadly it appears Julie was in the grips of some sort of alcoholism or addiction.

Belfast Coroner Jim Kitson

A friend told the inquest that Ms Watson had become afraid to leave her home and she spent most of the day drinking cider.

Her body was covered in several old fractures from an accident or assault, pathologist Dr Alistair Bentley said, including a bone in her neck broken by pressure.

But the expert said these injuries had happened a considerable time beforehand and were most likely caused by falls linked to her heavy drinking.

The inquest also heard she became depressed and developed her alcohol problem when she went through a divorce.

After her divorce she "dropped off the radar", the coroner said.

She stayed with friends or in hostels but later moved into a property at Kitchener Street, close to where her body was found, with a friend called Joseph Blair.

He told police she tended to leave for weeks at a time and he did not consider them to be in a relationship and after she left in August 2009 he assumed she was living somewhere else.

He was interviewed by police but he was not connected to the death.

Dr Bentley said: "Within the limits imposed by the degree of decomposition there was nothing that I found to suggest that she had been the victim of a homicide."

Her bones were found curled in a foetal position with an aerosol and plastic bag close by.

A pathologist said she may have been inhaling the gases of the spray, which can interfere with the heart beat, but it was not possible to analyse for the toxic substances.

The coroner said it was clear she was not the victim of a murder.


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