Mother investigates her own son’s death

Diane Down and son Sam, who died in 2007 aged 18, below
Diane Down and son Sam, who died in 2007 aged 18, below

A mother who turned private detective to investigate the death of her own son has spoken out about her hollow victory.

For the past six years, Diane Down has spent every spare moment battling to discover why 18-year-old Sam was left to die. His body was found by friends who had watched TV and even eaten sandwiches before they called an ambulance.

Her remarkable quest has taken her to the High Court, the House of Commons, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and the Thames Valley Police Professional Standards department.

The 49-year-old says she is now convinced she has found the answers she was looking for. But the authorities, she says, refuse to accept them.

Diane last saw her son on October 26, 2007, before he left to spend the evening drinking at his friend Elliot Cooper-Carroll’s Stantonbury home.

An inquest in 2008 heard Mr Cooper-Carroll, then 24, woke the next morning to find Sam, an apprentice scaffolder, on the floor beside the bed.

At 10.30am he told his mother Sandra Cooper he was unable to wake his friend, who had a cut on his head.

Mrs Cooper described Sam’s face as “white” and his lips as “blue”. Yet the family did not call for an ambulance until 1.17pm – after they put the blood-stained bedding into bin bags, and even ate lunch.

Coroner Rodney Corner, though criticising the delay, recorded a verdict of accidental death caused by the combined effect of alcohol and drugs.

Said Diane, who also lives in Stantonbury: “I never accepted it. There were so many unanswered questions.

“Why was Sam bleeding? Why did police seize a knife from the house? Why was an ambulance not called immediately?

“It seemed police decided early on that Sam’s death was not suspicious. I believe they didn’t investigate it properly.”

As a result of Diane’s own investigations, which included recruiting a private toxicology expert, several police officers have received a minor rap on the knuckles on the recommendation of the IPCC.

But her main request, to have a fresh inquest, was refused, partly on the basis that much of the evidence had subsequently been destroyed.

Police have also refused to re-investigate, with superintendent Nikki Ross stating: “All at Milton Keynes understand that Mrs Down continues to grieve.... but this process is distracting us away from the policing of MK today.”

Meanwhile Diane, who works in fraud operations, is planning to hand her file of detective work to lawyers to decide if she has grounds to sue Thames Valley Police for compensation.