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Hannah Defoe aunt recounts swimming pool tragedy

TRAGIC DEATH: Hannah Defoe

THE AUNT of a popular dancer who died in the Caribbean described how she was rushed to hospital after suffering a series of electric shocks when she leapt into a swimming pool in a bid to save her niece, an inquest heard last week.

Student Hannah Defoe, 20, of Enfield, north London – the cousin of footballer Jermain Defoe – died on the second day of a dream trip to the paradise island of St Lucia after jumping into a hotel pool that had a live electric current surging through it.

Giving evidence via a video link at West London Coroner's Court to the inquest in Vieux Fort, St Lucia, Janet Defoe, who had travelled to the island with her, told Magistrate Robert Innocent of her desperate effort to save Hannah’s life.

She told the inquest she had arrived on the island on July 24 – the day before Hannah's death – and was staying in Juliette's Lodge Hotel, in Vieux Fort, in the north of the island with her niece and her own 17-year-old daughter.

Reading from the witness statement she had made in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy Ms Defoe said that when a family friend rushed to find her and told her that Hannah was having trouble in the swimming pool she ran outside. 

"I ran to the pool and when I got there I saw Hannah's body stretched out at the bottom of the pool. I jumped into the pool to rescue her. As soon as I jumped in I felt a fuzzy feeling over my whole body," the aunt said.

Defoe explained that she was able to reach a hand out of the water and someone pulled her from the pool. "I saw a metal pole on the floor. I took the pole and tried to move her. But when I put the pole inside the pool I got an electric shock. When I put my hand into the water I also got a shock," she added. 

Continuing to read from her statement she said that she could not remember who had called the ambulance, but did recall she was transported to hospital alongside a man who had also tried to rescue her niece, but who had also been electrocuted in the attempt.

Hannah's mother Hope Defoe also gave evidence via videolink. Although she was not on the island at the time of her daughter's death, the St Lucian inquest requested she read out the witness statement she had given when she arrived on the island in the days after her daughter's death.

Overcome with emotion, the grieving mother wept as she recalled the tragedy. "I identified the dead body of my daughter," she said.

She went on to ask magistrate: "I am not clear when it says 'electrocution secondary to drowning' as the cause of death. When I talked to the coroner I was told that she died of a heart attack due to electrocution.

"The electrocution was so powerful it stopped her heart instantly. Therefore when I was told ‘electrocution secondary to drowning’ as the cause of death - it doesn't quite make sense to me."

The magistrate replied: "The inquest will resolve that question."

The inquest in St Lucia has been plagued by delays since it was convened earlier this year. 

However, Hope and Janet were the last witnesses to give evidence to the inquest and it is expected to conclude within the month.

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