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Community stalwart from Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, slipped on wet paper in supermarket toilet, inquest told

An inquest has been held into the death of Mel Thomas, who died aged 78.

An inquest has been held into the death of Mel Thomas, who died aged 78.


A much-loved community stalwart died in hospital after slipping on a piece of wet paper in a supermarket toilet and banging her head on a wall, an inquest heard.

Melrose Thomas, 78, known as Mel, was shopping at Morrisons in Gorleston on January 13 when the incident occurred.

Although initially she was well enough to finish her shopping and call her partner her condition deteriorated. She was taken by ambulance to Gorleston’s James Paget Hospital where she died on January 18.

An inquest in Norwich heard yesterday that an investigation into the accident was carried out by Great Yarmouth borough council’s environment health office, after the incident was reported by Morrisons.

It found that Morrisons was not at fault for the incident, and had suitable procedures in place and was complying with legal health and safety requirements.

However, the inquest was told that the store’s own policy of cleaning the toilets every half hour had not been followed that afternoon. The toilets had been inspected at 2pm that day, but not then until after Mrs Thomas’ fall after 4pm. There are no national regulations on how often toilets should be cleaned.

The cause of death was given as bilateral subdural haematomas with ischemic heart disease and atrial fibrillation as contributory causes.

The inquest heard that Mrs Thomas’ heart disease made her more susceptible to falls and, due to her medication, she was at increased risk from head traumas.

A jury concluded that Mrs Thomas, from Kings Drive, Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth, died from an accidental death.

Afterwards, the family paid tribute to an “amazing woman” who was a great motivator.

Mrs Thomas had nine children and 75 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Her eldest daughter Yvonne Stuart said: “She was not the type of person to say ‘woe is me’. She would rather go skydiving or something like that. She loved life.”

Mrs Thomas had been writing her autobiography and the family said they hope to finish it off, as she just had one chapter left.

As reported, tributes were paid to Mrs Thomas her after her death, when she was described as an “inspirational” community stalwart.

At the time of the tragedy, she was re-launching her third memory club and arranging 10th anniversary celebrations for her first.

She was passionate about the memory clubs she set up for people with Alzheimer’s, helping them to accept and manage their diagnosis and receive therapy and reminiscence.

The service was also aimed at offering respite for carers and providing a relaxed and social setting for members, making it a unique provision.

She set up her first memory club in January 2004 and another three years later. A third club in Hemsby was in the process of being re-launched when she died.

The clubs have a membership of around 90 and a waiting list, with the idea spreading to Scotland and Cornwall where similar clubs have sprung up based on her caring format.

She was handed a Living Legend award by the Queen at Windsor Castle for her voluntary work in 2006 and was continually fund-raising and bidding for grants for outings and meals for members.

In April last year she was named among other local heroes in Gorleston and presented with a carer’s award.

After her death, members of her club at Gorleston St Andrew’s went ahead with 10th anniversary celebrations, as she had planned, and the then Yarmouth mayor John Burroughs, praised the marvellous work she did with the memory clubs. It is estimated she raised around £75,000 in the last ten years to support the clubs.

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