Whitear autopsy rules out disease or 'physical trauma'

Preliminary results of a post-mortem examination of the exhumed body of Rachel Whitear show she did not die of a disease or "physical trauma", police said yesterday.

Miss Whitear's remains were exhumed in Withington, Herefordshire, as part of a new inquiry into her death four years ago. Detective Chief Superintendent Paul Howlett, leading the inquiry, said it was still possible that the 21-year-old heroin addict had suffered a drugs-related death before her body was found in a bedsit in Devon.

Det Ch Supt Howlett spoke shortly after Miss Whitear's mother, Pauline Holcroft, and stepfather, Mick Holcroft, attended a brief reinterment ceremony just over five hours after the exhumation.

The new inquiry was launched after Mr and Mrs Holcroft raised concerns over Devon and Cornwall police's handling of the investigation.

It was originally thought that Miss Whitear died after taking a drugs overdose at her flat in Exmouth, but the inquest recorded an open verdict and no post-mortem examination was done.

Images of her corpse clutching a syringe were used in a video called Rachel's Story to illustrate the dangers of drugs.