SOPHIE Gradon’s distraught parents today denied an inquest verdict that the Love Island star took a lethal cocaine and booze mix before she was found hanged.
Deborah and Colin Gradon instead insist their “beloved” daughter had an undiagnosed brain condition that causes irrational thoughts.
Collect Sophie Gradon with her parents Deborah and Colin
Instagram The 32-year-old with her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong
This would have had a “severe and brutal impact” on Sophie in the months leading to her tragic death last June.
Their claims are in stark contrast to the coroner’s findings that Sophie, 32, ended her life last June after taking the deadly cocktail.
A coroner cited research in the US that revealed mixing drink and drugs made people 16 times more likely to kill themselves.
But Deborah and Colin told Sun Online that a post mortem revealed Sophie had been living with Arteriovenous malformation (AVM).
This causes an abnormal connection between arteries and veins that has been shown to affect a person’s thinking and reasoning abilities.
‘SEVERE AND BRUTAL IMPACT’
The heartbroken couple said: “We needed more time to research and talked to a leading psychiatrist and neuroscientist.
“They both unanimously agreed that Sophie’s cerebral and cognitive reasoning would have been influenced by the presence of the AVM in her brain.
“We believe Sophie started to become symptomatic in December 2017. We noted an acute change in her personality and behaviour.
“Sophie was convinced she had ADHD and would often complain ‘that her brain wasn’t working right’.”
Sophie, who was battling depression, was found by her boyfriend Aaron Armstrong at her parent’s home in Northumberland last summer.
He frantically performed CPR on her for 15 minutes but she was sadly unable to be saved.
Aaron, 25, hanged himself five days after her funeral having taken a similar cocktail of cocaine and booze, a separate inquest was told last month.
‘The pain is visceral’ – Sophie’s parents statement in fullToday is, without doubt, one of the saddest of our lives. Our precious Daughter is no longer with us and to read the cause of her passing all over the media is shattering beyond measure. The last ten months have been filled with agony, anguish we have suffered torturous interference almost on a daily basis. Particularly in the past few weeks from the sewer that is social media.
We were given the Coroner’s file on Friday 15th March at 16.00. The Coroner then expected to hold the Inquest, giving us only 3 days to read the file and make any legal submissions. This timescale was unconscionable with the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The law is quite clear, in that it specifies that disclosure to Family of the diseased should be given in a reasonable time. We did not consider three days reasonable. We, therefore, asked for a postponement.
On his appointment as the first Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC advocated that Families should be prioritised and given information as quickly as it was made available. Procedures to make the process more timely and less stressful for the bereaved families involved, were to be put in the process. Sadly, this wasn’t our experience.
Contained within the file was the Post Mortem report, which we were advised not to read. Mercifully, we did and discovered to our devastation that our beloved Daughter Sophie; had a life-threatening undiagnosed brain condition known as an Arteriovenous malformation (AVM).
This is an abnormal connection between arteries and veins, bypassing the capillary system. This vascular anomaly is widely known because of its occurrence in the central nervous system (usually cerebral AVM) but can appear in any location.
This would have had a severe and brutal impact on Sophie. We needed more time to research and talked to a leading psychiatrist and neuroscientist. They both unanimously agreed that Sophie’s cerebral & cognitive reasoning would have been influenced by the presence of the AVM in her brain.
Sophie’s ability to reach logical conclusions and judgments about whether an action is right or wrong would have been relentlessly compromised. We believe Sophie started to become symptomatic in December 2017. We noted an acute change in her personality and behaviour. Sophie was convinced she had ADHD and would often complain “that her brain wasn’t working right”. None of this was apparent as a child. Sophie was always incredibly clever and bright. Other physical systems started to manifest themselves such as back and neck pain (owing to blood starvation to the area.
One of her last postings on Facebook was about how much back pain she was experiencing. Sadly, the survival rate of a 35-year-old with an AVM is only 25% and at 40 this drops to 20%.
Sophie in her own words said she felt her life was spiralling out of control. She admitted to making some really bad decisions in her personal life and made associations with people whom she knew to be bad for her. She claimed she was getting involved with “The wrong men”. She swore to herself that “nothing is going to stop me from taking care of myself & that includes men”.
The toxicology report showed us that Sophie was 2½ times over the drink driving limit, which to some is a large amount but to others a normal evening in front of the T.V. Additionally, there was a Cocaine found in her system, of which one of the metabolites, is Benzoylecgonine. It is known that prescribed medication such as Sertraline an SSRI can give a ‘false positive’ reading of Cocaine in someone’s system. Sophie was taking Sertraline at the time of her passing. I asked the Toxicologist to take this into consideration, but he wouldn’t. Everything has to be black or white with no grey area.
The pain we feel is visceral. Ask any parent that has lost a child. The grief and guilt eat away at you from the inside out. Someday it’s difficult to breathe. There is a hole in our hearts that will never ever be filled again with the love that we knew to be our beloved daughter Sophie.
Sophie lived each day knowing she was cherished and adored. There was nothing she could ever do that would make us love her any less. We will love Sophie for eternity.”
North Shields Coroners Court heard how Sophie, crowned Miss Newcastle and Miss Great Britain in 2009, had been prescribed the anti-depression drug Sertraline in 2013.
Toxicology tests showed she had a blood reading of 201mg per 100ml of blood – around three times the legal driving limit, as well as cocaine.
But her parents have blamed Sophie’s medication for the positive cocaine reading – and claimed they asked a toxicologist look into their fears but were refused.
LIFE WAS ‘SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL’
The inquest was dramatically halted from its planned start on March 21 so Sophie’s parents could read a new report into her death.
Deborah and Colin, who were not at today’s hearing, have also revealed how their daughter told them her life was “spiralling out of control” in the months leading to her death.
She had admitted “making really bad decisions” – including in her choice of men – but had swore to herself nothing would stop her “taking care of myself”.
Sophie lived each day knowing she was cherished and adored. There was nothing she could ever do that would make us love her any less. We will love Sophie for eternityDeborah and Colin Gradon
Paying tribute to their daughter, Deborah and Colin added: “The pain we feel is visceral. Ask any parent that has lost a child. The grief and guilt eat away at you from the inside out.
“Someday it’s difficult to breathe. There is a hole in our hearts that will never ever be filled again with the love that we knew to be our beloved daughter Sophie.
“Sophie lived each day knowing she was cherished and adored. There was nothing she could ever do that would make us love her any less. We will love Sophie for eternity.”
North Shields Coroners Court heard how Sophie, crowned Miss Newcastle and Miss Great Britain in 2009, had been mourning the recent death of close friend Paul Burns at the time of her death.
‘I CAN’T DO THIS ANYMORE’
She exchanged a series of Instagram messages with pal Sondeep Gill before the pair spoke for nearly an hour on the phone in the early hours of June 20.
Sophie said Paul “had been there for so many people and he had stopped her from taking her own life”.
“I cannot do this any more I struggle every day with my ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder],” she told Sondeep.
“I would never want to do that to my family but if I could escape I would. I cannot believe I am telling you this.
“I have been struggling with the world, no one knows why or how.”
I would never want to do that [take my own life] to my family but if I could escape I wouldSophie Gradon
The phone suddenly went dead at 2.40am, and Sondeep’s messages went unanswered after that point.
Sondeep told police: “Her speech was slurred, she was repeating herself a lot and during the conversation I was worried she sounded down so I tried to keep the conversation light and told her she should go to bed.”
The court heard that Sophie had been prescribed the anti-depression drug Sertraline in 2013 – and that the drug was found in her system along with the alcohol and cocaine.
Toxicology tests showed she had a blood reading of 201mg per 100ml of blood – around three times the legal driving limit, as well as cocaine.HEARTBREAK
Aaron and Sophie also exchanged texts the day before her death that were “very general and loving in nature” while both were at home looking after their respective parents’ dogs.
But when he couldn’t contact Sophie the next day, Aaron became so worried he called his brother Ryan and the pair went together to her home in the village of Medburn near Newcastle, arriving at around 7pm.
At first they threw stones up to Sophie’s bedroom window to get her attention, before Aaron peered through the living room window and saw his girlfriend was unconscious.
The brothers smashed their way in through a door before Aaron began performing CPR.
He continued for 15 minutes while Ryan spoke to the ambulance service, until it became clear that Sophie was dead.
Aaron’s devastated mum, Donna Armstrong, described their relationship as “very intense and emotional”.
Coroner Eric Armstrong said he was “certain she would not have acted as she did without taking alcohol and cocaine”.
“The combination is used by those who believe it brings on a so-called high much quicker,” he told the court.
“What they do not appreciate is it also gives rise to violent thoughts.
“If Sophie’s death is to serve any purpose at all, that message must go out far and wide.”
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Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Armstrong said he could not be sure it was suicide, but ruled out any third party involvement.
His conclusion read: “Sophie Hannah Gradon, having consumed alcohol and cocaine, took her own life by hanging.”
Fellow Love Island contestant Mike Thalassitis was also found dead last month, prompting calls from Health Secretary Matt Hancock for reality shows to do more for competitors once they have become famous.
Collect Deborah and Colin are against the inquest’s findings
PA:Press Association Sophie Gradon was crowned Miss Great Britain in 2009
PA:Press Association Sophie Gradon, who was a former Love Island star, was battling depression at the time of her death in June 2018, according to an inquest today
Rex Features Sophie Gradon was one of the stars of the 2016 series of ITV2’s hit reality show Love Island
YOU’RE NOT ALONEEVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.
It doesn’t discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.
It’s the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.
And men are three times more likely to take their own life than women.
Yet it’s rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.
That is why The Sun launched the You’re Not Alone campaign.
The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.
Let’s all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You’re Not Alone.
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
Heartbreaking footage of Sophie Gradon and boyfriend Aaron Armstrong before tragic deaths
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or visit Mind’s website.