BRITAIN'S strongest woman died after taking a overdose of cocaine, an inquest heard yesterday.

Joanne Amies-Winter, 23, was found dead by her husband Stephen, on 23 February on the living-room floor at a house in Newbury, Berkshire, where the couple had been staying with friends.

The West Berkshire Coroner, Charles Hoile, who recorded a verdict of accidental death at Newbury Coroner's Court, said: "The message is quite clear - hard drugs can and do kill."

The hearing was told that scientific tests had revealed that Mrs Amies- Winter had taken as much as two grams of cocaine - a fatal dose - in the hours before her death.

A post-mortem examination showed that the champion body-builder was a regular drug-taker. As well as the cocaine, a small trace of Prozac and larger quantities of ephedrine, a stimulant, and Nubain, an analgesic, were also found in her body.

Born in Hereford, where she still lived, Mrs Amies-Winter became a triathlete at the age of 14 and went on to represent Britain in the European and world championships.

She also achieved acclaim as a body-builder in national and international competitions and was Britain's strongest woman.

Mr Amies-Winter, also a top European strongman, told the hearing that he had once seen his wife injecting cocaine.

He said: "Jo liked to try all manner of things and she could not really be advised not to until she had done it herself. That was one of her problems."

Mr Amies-Winter told the hearing that Mrs Amies-Winter, a residential care worker, had recently been taken to hospital suffering severe pain. She had also suffered from pleurisy and bronchitis.

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