Tycoon's wife was assaulted before death, claim parents

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The Independent Online

A restaurant tycoon's wife, found dead after taking a cocktail of drugs may have been assaulted before she died, her parents have claimed. But nearly two years ago, a Home Office pathologist found she had died from the overdose.

Camille Cox, 41, was discovered after she failed to answer the door to her husband, Barry Cox, the founder of the Hard Rock Café restaurant chain, in December, 2001. Last year, he told the inquest at Westminster Coroners Court his former wife suffered from drug dependency and he believed she died from it.

Mrs Cox, who lived in St John's Wood, London, was profoundly affected by the death of her seven-year-old son, Jamie, who was killed in a car accident while she was driving four years ago. She endured further traumas after the breakup of her marriage and losing custody of her daughter.

Her American parents, Dan and Rose Batson, have testimony from a US pathologist, suggesting there may have been more to her death than a drug overdose.

At a hearing last year, Dr Nicholas Hunt, the Home Office pathologist , said Mrs Cox had swallowed painkillers, tranquil- lisers and GHB, otherwise known as liquid ecstasy. He said she had 39 injuries, including black eyes and needle puncture wounds on her elbows and groin, which he found not to be characteristic of assault. But the new claims question the drugs found in Mrs Cox's system and suggests she may have been attacked.

Clifford Mailer, the family's barrister, said: "Her parents think the assumption that it is all to do with drugs is misplaced. They don't accept her death had anything to do with any form of drug abuse."

Mr Mailer said although codeine and diazepam were found in Mrs Cox's blood, there were inconsistencies in scientific reports. GHB is produced by the body during the natural decaying process, he added.

He said that there were various marks on Mrs Cox's body which suggested violence had occurred, including a cut on her lip, grip marks on her body and black eyes.

"There is enough on the body to say she had been assaulted," he added. "She had a very fresh cut in her mouth, on her lip, which could have been as a result of a punch."

Mr Mailer said Dr Linda Norton, an American pathologist, said Mrs Cox's death was more likely to have been as a result of violence than of drugs.

But Mr Cox had told the inquest: "Camille died from a drugs overdose; she wasn't killed. Our son died in a very bad crash. She never got over it and she would dream about him when she went to sleep, which she couldn't take. She couldn't sleep without dreaming about him without taking GHB."

After the car crash four years ago, Mrs Cox had to hald her badly injured son for an hour before they were both cut free; but he died. She is believed to have suffered from recurring nightmares afterwards as well as insomnia. Mr Cox said: "Our son died in a very bad crash. He was mutilated and she had to sit there and hold him throughout."

A hearing in April last year was told Mr Cox found her body slumped over a sofa. Thinking she had just passed out, he took photographs of her to show the effect her drug dependency was having on her. She had also been seen by psychiatrists and had treatment at the Priory Hospital. On the day Mr Cox found his wife's body, he had gone to her house with his housekeeper to take her Christmas shopping.

At first they thought she had just collapsed over the sofa. But he then noticed blood on the material and realised she was cold to touch.

The fresh claims have delayed his wife's inquest. Dr Hunt, who is concerned his competence is being questioned, seeks legal advice before it resumes in December.

As well as founding Hard Rock Café, Mr Cox also helped to develop the Pelican restaurant group, which gained the backing of the Planet Hollywood restaurant promoter, Robert Earl.

During the 1990s, Mr Cox bought Whitchurch Group, his meat-processing and distribution business.