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Inquest: Murdered John O'Donohue's fiancee Zoe French died after taking drugs and vomiting

By Clare Freeman

A mother-of-four, whose partner was murdered by a drug dealer, died after taking a concoction of drugs, an inquest heard.

Zoe French had been trying to get her life back on track when she was found at a house in Rochester in November. Ambulance crews were unable to revive her.

The 32-year-old had a long history of prescription and recreational drug use, including heroin and cocaine.

Grieving Zoe French says her heart has been ripped out by the death of John O’Donohue
Grieving Zoe French says her heart has been ripped out by the death of John O’Donohue

Miss French’s partner, John O’Donohue, was mown down in Castlemaine Avenue, Gillingham, in 2014.

Drug dealer Jake Austin, formerly of Priestfield Road, Gillingham, was jailed for life for murder later that year.

The court heard at the time that Austin ran down Mr O’Donohue because he and a friend had tried to pay for drugs with bits of paper.

The inquest into Miss French’s death, held at Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone, heard that after overdosing on methadone in June, she started attending sessions with the charity Turning Point, and drug tests showed she had stopped using heroin.

She had moved in with her mother, started volunteering at Medway Maritime Hospital, and was having supervised contact with two of her children.

Couple John O'Donohue and Zoe French
Couple John O'Donohue and Zoe French

But on the morning of November 2, 2016, she was found not breathing at a house in Mercury Close, Rochester, where she had stayed the night with her friend David Firth.

Det Sgt Steve Smith said Mr Firth told him the pair spent the previous day together and bought a bottle of morphine and pregabalin pain relief tablets.

Miss French later bought crack cocaine and heroin.

The pair then went to the house in Mercury Close, where Mr Firth’s sister lived.

Miss French drank from the bottle of morphine, took tablets and also smoked crack cocaine. Mr Firth told officers he took the heroin.

They spent the evening watching TV and films before going to sleep in the living room.

Det Sgt Smith said when Mr Firth’s sister came downstairs in the morning, she found Miss French was not breathing and woke her brother, and they called an ambulance.

The railings after being hit by the car driven by Jake Austin
The railings after being hit by the car driven by Jake Austin

Mr Firth told officers he had been with Miss French 16 years ago and they had recently got back in contact and were going to rekindle their relationship.

A pathologist’s report gave the cause of Miss French’s death as choking on her own vomit and said it was also due to the presence of multiple drugs.

Assistant coroner Christopher Morris said: “Having heard the evidence, she was taking positive steps to get her life back, was a hospital volunteer and renewed contact with her children.

“There is no evidence that Zoe intended to harm herself. She was seeking to make plans for the future.”

He concluded her death was drug-related.

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