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MP's daughter Rebecca Gapes, 19, died suddenly in Canterbury student house

By Danny Boyle
Rebecca Gapes, 19, was discovered dead in her Canterbury bedroom by a builder.
Rebecca Gapes, 19, was discovered dead in her Canterbury bedroom by a builder.

The daughter of an MP was found dead in her bedroom aged just 19.

Rebecca Gapes was discovered by a builder at the house she shared with fellow students in Warwick Road, Canterbury.

An inquest heard she had suffered sudden adult death syndrome - a rare condition in which the heart mysteriously stops.

A coroner was told Rebecca - the daughter of Essex MP Mike Gapes - had started a course in American studies at Canterbury Christ Church University last September and was one of six girls living in the house.

She returned to the house on the night of May 8 and spoke to two of her housemates before going to bed.

The next day she told housemate and fellow American studies student Ceiridwen Fowles she felt ill.

Rebecca said she would not be going to lectures and would be missing a trip to the cinema later that day.

In a statement read out at the hearing in Canterbury, Miss Fowles said she had read messages from Rebecca on Twitter saying she had vomited twice and taken paracetamol.

By 9pm, she had still not emerged from her bedroom and housemates asked about her health, to which she replied she was well.

But the following day, May 10, she had not gone to lectures and there was no response from her room.

A builder working on the house forced his way in and she was found dead.

Pathologist Dr Salim Anjarwalla told the hearing a post-mortem showed that while there was paracetamol in her system it was not very high.

He concluded Rebecca had almost certainly suffered a sudden cardiac death.

Ilford South MP Mike Gapes
Ilford South MP Mike Gapes

Dr Anjarwalla said: "There are around 500 cases a year of sudden adult death syndrome.

"The cause of death remains unascertained, but I favour sudden cardiac death."

Coroner Rebecca Cobb recorded a verdict of death by natural causes.

She said: "The clinical cause of death is unascertained, but I do consider there is no indication of unnatural causes.

"I would place this in the category of natural causes from sudden adult death syndrome."

Rebecca's father Mike Gapes (pictured left) is a Labour MP who has represented the Essex consituency of Ilford South since 1992.

He was on a trip to Australia in his capacity as a member of the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee when she died.

Mr Gapes was woken by police in Canberra to tell him the tragic news.

Shortly after, the 60-year-old said: "This is so difficult for me. Rebecca was an articulate, intelligent and caring young woman.

"She was very happy at university and doing really well. Rebecca was not just my daughter, she was my best friend.

"I have dealt with people who have been bereaved, but until something awful like this happens to you, you can never understand how it feels."

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