THE former landlady of a Kendal pub died due to the toxic effect of taking antidepressant tablets, an inquest has concluded. 

Anita Gardner, 62, died suddenly at her home in Skelsmergh, on April 26, 2023. 

Ms Gardner had been landlady of The Riflemans Arms on Greenside for ten years until suffering a stroke around four years ago. 

She was found by her partner of 12 years Paul Carlin unresponsive in her bedroom after he heard a thud at around 3.30pm while making her a cup of tea.

Mr Carlin, who gave evidence at the inquest, said the couple had been out to the Punch Bowl and Anglers Arms the previous evening and had drunk alcohol and played pool. 

He said they returned home at around 10pm and when he had gone to bed Ms Gardner opened a bottle wine and stayed downstairs, which was ‘quite normal’, according to Mr Carlin. 

He was woken up to find her vomiting at around 3am but awoke again at around 6.30am to find her sleeping in bed next to him. 

Mr Carlin got up and found half a bottle of wine and several empty blister packs of sertraline and fluoxetine, two commonly prescribed antidepressant medications.  

He confronted Ms Gardner, who he said appeared ‘dopey and slurry’, which was ‘not unusual’ for a morning. 

She remained in bed and called to Mr Carlin for a cup of tea at around 3.30pm that day. Around twenty minutes later, he heard the thud, found Ms Gardner unconscious upstairs, attempted CPR, and called 999. 

Paramedics arrived less than 15 minutes later but were unable to resuscitate Ms Gardner. 

Mr Carlin said that although she had suffered throughout her life with depression, he did not think his partner had attempted to take her own life. 

He said she had ‘an enviable lifestyle’, ‘absolutely loved’ her job at Lakeland Wildlife Oasis in Milnthorpe, had no money worries, and they were in the process of booking a Caribbean cruise for Christmas. 

Mr Carlin said the ‘only times she would get down in the dumps’ was when taking calls with her son, who would drink heavily, frequently ask for money, and threaten suicide. 

A postmortem showed a level of sertraline ‘much higher’ than that seen in therapeutic use and ‘well within the range encountered in fatalities’. 

Fluoxetine was also found but the level could not be analysed. 

Ms Carlin’s medical history showed that while she had been prescribed sertraline and propranolol, a beta-blocker used to alleviate physical symptoms of anxiety, in 2020 by Captain French Surgery in Kendal, there was no record of her ever being prescribed fluoxetine.  

Assistant Coroner for Cumbria Dr Nicholas Shaw said he found ‘no evidence’ that she intended to take her own life but concluded that the toxicity of the drugs had not caused respiratory failure as she had been able to call for a cup of tea shortly before she collapsed. 

Instead, Dr Shaw concluded that the toxic effect of the drugs was more likely to have interfered with the electrical functioning of her heart, pointing to a postmortem finding of a narrowed artery in to the heart.