London - A teacher died after she swallowed a £60 (around R1 120) bag of cocaine in a first-class airport lounge.
Victoria Buchanan, 42, had the drug in her hand luggage while drinking champagne at Manchester Airport.
An inquest heard she took the split-second decision to swallow the bag in order to smuggle it with her to Dubai, which has strict anti-drug laws.
The expat mother-of-three had acquired £200 of the Class A drug – around 4g – during a visit to family in the UK but only £60 worth was left.
Moments after swallowing the bag she collapsed with a severe seizure when it burst in her stomach.
An off-duty nurse used Mrs Buchanan’s phone to ring her husband – shipping company boss Mark – who told her she had a palm oil allergy, the Manchester inquest was told.
She administered an epipen she found in the teacher’s handbag in the belief she was suffering an anaphylactic shock, but Mrs Buchanan died in hospital. The cocaine bag was only discovered in her body during a post mortem examination. Assistant coroner Andrew Bridge, recording a verdict of misadventure, asked: ‘What on Earth was she thinking?’
The inquest was told her parents knew nothing of her drug-taking. Originally from Kilmarnock in Scotland, Mrs Buchanan moved to Dubai in 2010 to work as a teacher. She also helped impoverished children in Nepal through a charity.
Mrs Buchanan’s death took place after she had spent a week in Britain with her family. Her husband Mark told the hearing: ‘We were aware she would take small amounts of cocaine occasionally and it was something we did together.’
Mr Buchanan said he had left for Dubai a few days earlier and there would have been about £60 of cocaine left. He added: ‘Not a lot was left – not that that matters now’.
He denied asking her to take the drug back to Dubai, insisting: ‘If somebody had asked her to smuggle the cocaine she would have refused. She wasn’t in a position to be blackmailed – I can say that 100 per cent.’
Dr Jon Hopper said Mrs Buchanan was taken to Manchester’s Wythenshawe Hospital by ambulance suffering cardiac arrest and died in hospital the following day. Dr Hopper said: ‘She was at Manchester Airport in the Aspire hospitality lounge. She had been seen sitting in a chair drinking champagne when she collapsed.
‘Onlookers thought she was intoxicated but then she started having a fit.
‘An off-duty nurse searched through her handbag and called her husband who told her an epipen was in her bag as she had previous reactions to palm oil. During her post-mortem a plastic resealable bag was found in her stomach.’
A toxicology report showed amounts of cocaine ‘consistent with recreational use’. But levels of a substance called cocaine metabolite benzoylecgonine – which remains in the body for up to five days – were much higher and consistent with ‘excessive’ use, it said.
The report added: ‘The obvious conclusion is that she ingested the bag and then collapsed from the level of cocaine which leaked into the stomach.’
Her cause of death was given as brain damage caused by cardiac arrest.
Mrs Buchanan’s mother Irene Dignon, 69, of Kilmarnock, told the inquest: ‘We couldn’t understand why she would risk something for such a small amount.
‘There was no evidence of anything like drugs with her – she was always so “anti” them. She was always so upbeat I wouldn’t have thought she needed them.’
Mrs Buchanan’s father James added: ‘We had no suspicion of any drug-taking.’ The coroner said Mrs Buchanan and her husband were ‘recreational users of cocaine but clearly not in Dubai given the strict regime in that country’.
He added: ‘Why she took such a risk will never be known, but I’m satisfied it was done of her own volition and there was no coercion or threat. My question is – what on Earth was she thinking?’
Cocaine possession carries a lengthy prison sentence in Dubai.
In 2014 a British student was jailed for nine years after being caught with less than £5 of the drug.Daily Mail