A top racehorse trainer who was addicted to diazepam overdosed on the drug and died, an inquest heard today.
Sheila Lockhart, 64 – whose most famous horse Go Ballistic came second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1999 – was found collapsed next her bed days before Christmas.
Frantic staff members raised the alarm, but emergency services pronounced the trainer dead almost instantly.
PC Stephen Smith told an inquest at Gloucester Coroner’s Court that he had had a “number of dealings” with Lockhart over a number of years.
In a statement, he said: “I was called to attend a sudden death and immediately recognised the female as Sheila Lockhart because I had had a number of dealings with her within the last two years.”
PC Smith said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the death of Mrs Lockhart.
Mrs Lockhart’s doctor, Paul Sherringham, told the inquest she had been addicted to benzodiazepine for many years stretching back to the 1980s.
In a statement read to the court he said: “One prominent feature in her medical history was that she was addicted to benzodiazepine, and had also been treated for alcohol addiction.
“She was seen intermittently by myself and other team members in the past years.
“She was referred to mental health clinics for treatment on a number of occassions.”
The inquest heard how Mrs Lockhart’s addiction to the drug had become so bad that, as well as her prescription from doctors, she was also ordering the medication from pharmacies around the world.
Deputy Assistant Coroner Tom Osborne said: “Alongside her prescription from her doctor and pharmacy, she was, via the internet, accessing other sources of diazepam from pharmacies abroad.”
Dr Sherringham added he had visited her home in November because he was concerned she had not been receiving any of the medication she had been paying for.
He had recommended she attend a clinic to deal with the withdrawal symptoms to help her cope with the levels on diazepam she was taking, but she had refused.
A post mortem confirmed that Mrs Lockhart had a large amount of Zolpidem, a variety of diazepam, in her system as well as other drugs used to treat the central nervous system.
Mr Osborne said there was “totally insufficient evidence” to conclude that Mrs Lockhart had wished to commit suicide.
He recorded a verdict that she died “as a result of dependence on drugs”.
Diazepam is commonly used to treat anxiety, panic attacks, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal and benzodiazepine withdrawal.
In 2011 the trainer was cleared of drink driving after she accidently rammed her Audi into a jockey, Warren Marston’s, Mercedes late at night, sending it smashing through his front door.
Mrs Lockhart, a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, had her conviction overturned after claiming she had drunk nothing until she had returned home to “settle her nerves”.
Go Ballistic, which Lockhart bought from Peter Bowen for £6,000, won nine of his 57 races and was placed 15 times.
He finished runner-up to See More Business in both the 1999 Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Chase and won nearly £250,000 in prize-money over a ten-year career.
Lockhart, who lived alone in a pretty three-bed Cotswolds house in Cold Aston, Cheltenham, leaves two daughters, Rosie and Laurie, and grandchildren.