Author lay dead in her home - as a publisher's letter sat on doormat

Helen Gradwell lay dead in her home for months before being discovered.
Helen Gradwell lay dead in her home for months before being discovered.

A reclusive author lay dead in her home for four months while a letter from book publishers accepting her first children's novel lay unread on the door mat.

Former teacher Helen Gradwell was found at her home near Bolton, Greater Manchester, after neighbours finally raised the alarm.

The 39-year-old suffered from intense migraines, and it is believed she may have accidentally overdosed on painkillers while she slept on the sofa.

Among items of post found piled up by the front door was a letter from a London publisher accepting her novel, The Nature's Spirits.

Her family revealed they have been desperately searching for the first draft of the book to publish in her memory.

They have had no luck so far finding the secret copy among her belongings.

Gradwell was found in April in her home in Heaton, but an inquest concluded she had died months earlier.

Christmas decorations were still strung up in the living room and her body, lying face down on the floor, was badly decomposed.

She last used her phone to send a text message to a friend cancelling a meeting on December 30 last year.

Sadly her two beloved pet dogs were also discovered dead in the same room.

The unmarried 39-year-old had a degree in psychology and sociology and had qualified as a teacher.

Yet her debilitating hemiplegic migraines, which resulted in paralysis down one side of her body, cut her career short.

It was then that, unbeknownst to her family, she began writing books.

Pathologist Jonathan Pearson told the inquest that toxicology tests revealed high levels of Tramadol, used to control her headaches, in her body.

Pearson said: "It is the only evidence we have of something abnormal that could explain the sudden death.

"It is not conclusive, but on the balance of probabilities it is the best evidence we have to explain the death."

Coroner Timothy Brennand recorded an open verdict on the death and said there was no evidence Gradwell sought to take her own life.

Helen Gradwell's pets were found dead in the same room as her body.
Helen Gradwell's pets were found dead in the same room as her body.

There was no note at the scene, and compelling evidence she adored her animals, particularly her 2-year-old german shepherd, named Wesley, 5-year-old springer spaniel, named Holly and her cat, Wilfred.

Brennard said: "To my mind, she would do nothing that would put the lives of her dogs in peril."

He added Gradwell's death was tragic, particularly as her future held so much promise with her potential book deal.

"After many, many months the real character of Helen is something that seemed to be reasserting itself," he said.

Gradwell's father, Jack, 69, described his daughter as "a bright and pretty" child who loved taking her pet spaniel for a rides in her bicycle basket.

Stepmother Bronwen, 61, agreed Gradwell "absolutely adored" her pets.

"This is why we know she did not do this on purpose," she added.

The author had sent the first three chapters of the book to the publisher, but relatives believe she completed the 37,000 word novel.

They said it "must be out there somewhere", and that if found they would donate the proceeds to animal charities.

Family friend Sarah Booth paid tribute to the animal lover, who was intellectual and had a great interest in world religions, becoming a Roman Catholic eight years ago.

"She was a very, very clever girl," Ms Booth said. "She was a very bright, determined young woman."

Jack Gradwell said yesterday that his daughter had deliberately distanced herself from her family and that she was "very difficult to approach".

"We tried, of course, but it wasn't easy."

Speaking at his semi-detached ‎home in Lymm, Cheshire, he added: "We haven't found the manuscript yet and didn't know she was writing it."

- Daily Mail

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