'Bubbly and creative' Derbyshire teenager died after drugs overdose

A heartbroken mum has paid tribute to her ‘beautiful’ daughter and ‘best friend’ after an inquest heard the teenager died from a drugs overdose.
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Talented and clever Rhiannon Mae Smith, 18, who was described as ‘intelligent beyond her years’, excelled at school and was a gifted artist and poet.

She achieved an A grade in every subject apart from maths in her GCSEs and had hoped to go to university.

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However, an inquest today (Monday, December 16) heard Rhiannon had quit her A-Levels and started to take drugs after beginning a new relationship.

Chesterfield Coroner's CourtChesterfield Coroner's Court
Chesterfield Coroner's Court

Rhiannon’s family did not approve of the relationship and they began to see a ‘massive change’ in her personality.

She died on Saturday, May 18 at her boyfriend’s family home in Bright Street, South Normanton, and the inquest at Chesterfield coroners’ court heard the cause of death was ‘morphine and cocaine consumption’ linked to depression.

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After the inquest, Rhiannon’s mum Claire Hammond said: “On May 18 our lives were changed forever. Our beautiful girl, Rhiannon Mae, left us.

“The word devastated doesn’t seem enough.

“Rhiannon was a wonderful daughter, sister, granddaughter and niece, loved by everyone who knew her.

“She was intelligent beyond her years, bubbly, caring, loving, creative and an absolute pleasure to be in the company of.

“She was happier staying at home than going out. My constant companion, she was always by my side.

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“We did everything together. It’s a cliche, but she was my best friend.”

The inquest was told Rhiannon was born at Chesterfield Royal Hospital and she attended The Green Infant School and Frederick Gent School, both at South Normanton, before beginning A-Level studies at Ashfield School.

Det Con Stuart Coutin, of Ripley CID, said: “In November 2017 she met Benjamin Pienaar and started a relationship of which her family did not approve. They thought she could do better as he had a problem with alcohol and mental health difficulties in the past.”

Det Con Coutin said that in March 2018 Rhiannon sought help from her GP because she ‘felt low’ and admitted taking ‘a lot of drugs’.

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On the evening before her death, Rhiannon and Benjamin had started drinking vodka at about 5pm and later took cocaine.

Benjamin said in a statement read to the court that Rhiannon took four lines of cocaine, but seemed ‘fine and happy’ with nothing appearing out of the ordinary.

They later ordered pizza and visited a friend’s home where Benjamin smoked cannabis.

After returning to Benjamin’s home, Rhiannon watched Netflix and then watched something on her mobile phone with her earphones in.

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Det Con Coutin said: “At 7am Benjamin woke up when he heard his mum leave for work. Rhiannon was asleep facing the wall. Benjamin went to the shop to get them some breakfast.

“When he returned he said ‘good morning’ and gave Rhiannon a little shake but there was no response.

“He could see foam coming from her mouth. He tried to open her mouth but couldn’t.”

An ambulance was called, but despite attempts at CPR Rhiannon was pronounced dead at 9.54am by paramedics.

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Det Con Coutin told the inquest there were no suspicious findings in his investigation.

Recording a verdict of misadventure, Assistant Coroner for Derbyshire Emma Serrano said there was no evidence to suggest Rhiannon intended to take her own life.

She said the cause of death was the effects of morphine and cocaine linked to depression but it was unclear how the morphine had been taken – although tablets had been found on Rhiannon’s person after her death.

The coroner said: “Her mood appeared happy and text messages suggested she was getting better from the depression.”

Rhiannon’s mum Claire added: “Our lives will never be the same again without her.”

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