Peaches Geldof inquest: her death is no less tragic because it involved heroin

The death of the 25 year-old has left a family distraught, and two boys without a mother. That it involved heroin changes nothing

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The Independent Online

When the news broke that Peaches Geldof had been found dead in her home in Kent last month, there was a fleeting moment in which it seemed as if the whole world recoiled, and let out a gasp of horror. The death of a 25-year-old mother of two young boys is, however you cut it, utterly hideous. We tell ourselves that death comes right at the end, after we’ve spent decades growing old and eccentric, and lost our teeth and hair. It’s just not supposed to happen to a vibrant, talented and beautiful young woman. Death like this jars against the natural order of things. No parent should bury their child, we are told; no child should grow up without their mother. It felt like a full stop had come crashing into the middle of a sentence, when there were whole volumes left to be written.

But there was another, horribly poignant, reason that Peaches’ death caused such wide ripples of grief. The Geldof family haven’t just been touched by tragedy; they’ve been coated with it.  Peaches lost her own mother, Paula Yates, to a heroin overdose in 2000, when she was just 11.

Peaches Geldof, Paula Yates & The Legacy Of Tragedy

Somewhat inevitably, in the days that followed Peaches’ death, there were murmurs that history had repeated itself. How desperately we hoped that the ghoulish speculators were mistaken, that this wasn’t an echo of the past that had claimed another victim, but some other new and terrible twist of fate.

Peaches had been open about her own drug use, but was adamant that she had been clean for some time. Since the birth of her sons, Astala in 2012 and Phaedra the following year, her life had seemed to be back on track. Gone, it appeared, was the rebellious child who had married in Las Vegas and separated six months later, replaced by a calm, confident woman and devoted mother. She described her life with her second husband Thomas Cohen as “bliss”. "Now I am a mum” she said, “I can correct those awful parts of my childhood and it's a really healing process. Before, I was not at peace with myself about it because I was just traumatised. That's why I was living a chaotic lifestyle. But now I have the kids I can heal the situation. It's so good in every single way, really."

But the rumours were right. Toxicology reports released today have revealed levels of heroin in her body "likely to have played a role in her death".

Within minutes of the announcement, the vitriol began. Some lowlifes even posted their delight in her death, thankful that her children were spared the pain of being raised by such a ‘selfish’ woman.  Each poster found their own uniquely odious way of phrasing themselves, but the overwhelming message was the same: that someone who dies of an overdose does not deserve our grief. But the people who think this - and not just think, but mindlessly inflict their boisterous opinions on others – are entirely mistaken.

Their position suggests that there is somehow a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way to die; a ranking system for death where sympathy must be earned and mourning legitimised. If the post mortem had discovered a fatal heart condition or cancer, we would be entitled to our sadness. But when the lethal blow is dealt by the more insidious hand of heroin, then the deceased is judged to be unworthy of our compassion.  It’s a heartless position, wholly devoid of human empathy.

Cold, medical facts do not change the gaping chasm which Peaches’ death has left in the lives of those who loved her, and for this they should have our sympathy. An explanation for the way in which she died will in no way lessen their pain. For the public who watched her grow up, and dearly hoped for a happy ending, this final chapter of her short story and its parallels with the past only adds to the heartbreak. In reality, nothing has really changed since yesterday. Peaches will never still see her sons grow up, and was unable to escape the fate which had denied her a mother. Hers is the ultimate tragedy.