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Folkestone Debenhams death: woman died after shop staff locked up leaving her collapsed in toilet

A Folkestone woman died after Debenhams staff locked up for night, leaving her unconscious in the toilets.

Lorraine Rawbone , 70, from Etchinghill, used the loos in the town centre department store on Thursday, March 31, this year but suffered a blood clot, which left her slumped in the cubicle.

She was found four hours later after a series of delays in searching the cubicle, despite her son locating her with iPhone's tracker app.

Debenhams, in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Wayne McCabe
Debenhams, in Sandgate Road, Folkestone. Picture: Wayne McCabe

Giving evidence at the Folkestone Magistrates Court inquest yesterday, Debenhams staff insisted they checked the toilets before they locked up but Mrs Rawbone went unnoticed.

She had arranged to meet her husband Terry in Lidl car park at 5.20pm so he could give her a lift home, but when she failed to show, he began to panic.

Mr Rawbone said: "I was beginning to worry because she was always very prompt and I just knew something was not right. This was just unheard of. I was constantly phoning her mobile every few seconds and it was just ringing and going to answer phone."

The couple had been married 50 years and were due to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary the following day.

But instead Mrs Rawbone was reported to police as a missing person and a desperate search began.

In a written statement read aloud to the court, attending officer PC Chandler: "Mr Rawbone told us he feared his wife was stuck somewhere and could not get help.

The court hearing took place at Folkestone Magistrates' Court
The court hearing took place at Folkestone Magistrates' Court

"I phoned to the town centre team to check all the town centre toilets. Officers had been unable to get into Debenhams because it was shut and they were having difficulty getting hold of key holders for Debenhams.

"I was extremely concerned for the welfare of Mrs Rawbone. I felt Mr Rawbone’s concerns were genuine and we needed to find his wife as soon as possible because the situation was escalating."

Mrs Rawbone's son had discovered her whereabouts using her iPhone tracker app and alerted officers she was in Debenhams toilets.

Police struggled to get into the building but eventually, a police officer contacted his family member who worked for Debenhams, who was able to contact store staff.

Mrs Rawbone was eventually discovered in the family toilets at 9.02pm, unconscious but still breathing.

She was given emergency medical treatment and later taken to the William Harvey Hospital.

Mrs Rawbone was found in Debenhams, Folkestone
Mrs Rawbone was found in Debenhams, Folkestone

PC Wood, another attending officer, said: "Everyone involved in her medical care did absolutely everything they could for her.

"She was treated with the utmost dignity and I’m extremely sad to say that despite everyone’s best efforts she passed away."

A post-mortem examination concluded the cause of death was a large pulmonary embolism – an often fatal blood clot.

Dr Salim Anjarwalla, pathologist, said, while he couldn’t be certain of the outcome, Mrs Rawbone would have had a greater chance of survival if she had early access to medical care.

Recording a death of natural causes, assistant coroner for South East Kent, Christine Freedman, said: "This is a very sad case, particularly because it was the day before her golden wedding anniversary.

"The procedure for checking the store at closing time failed to find her and there was further difficulty in locating a key holder. These delays reduced her chance of survival.

"I’m very pleased to learn that steps have been taken to improve tightening up on the closing procedure and I have no doubt that lessons have been learned.

"But one hopes that this situation could never happen again."

A spokesman for Debenhams said: "We wish to extend our sincere condolences to the family.

“The coroner's concerns have been noted by our health and safety team.”

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