Inquest: Tragedy of wife tricked by lotto prize scammers

The scene on the A1175 as police investigate a body found in a field near Market Deeping
The scene on the A1175 as police investigate a body found in a field near Market Deeping
Have your say

The death of a woman whose body was discovered in a field by a dog walker remains a mystery.

Coroner Prof Robert Forrest recorded an open verdict at an inquest into the death of Sharon Hurlstone, 54, in Boston today (Thursday) after extensive examinations revealed no foul play or any obvious cause of death.

Mrs Hurlstone’s badly decomposed body was found in a field on land off Northfield Road, Market Deeping on September 24.

The inquest heard she was reported missing by her husband, David, on August 26. Ten days earlier she had left the couple’s caravan at Deepings Caravan Park, in Towngate East, Market Deeping, after they had had an argument.

The inquest heard that police investigations revealed Mrs Hurlstone had spent thousands of pounds on lottery cash prize scams. She had told her husband she was saving money for the winter months when he received no paid work from the security business they ran together.

In giving his verdict, Prof Forrest said: “This is the first open verdict I have given and I’m very sad I cannot give David the closure I would have liked to have done because we can’t explain exactly what happened to his wife.

“Extensive examinations by the forensic pathologist and toxicologist do not reveal a cause of death in either a natural or unnatural manner.”

The inquest was told Mr Hurlstone had told police his wife had gone missing before after she was victim of a fraud scam in 2009. This resulted in financial difficulties for the couple and they had to leave their home in the Wirral and move to Market Deeping.

A police report showed that over a four-year period Mrs Hurlstone had spent more than £41,000 on lottery scams. Data on her phone records revealed she had replied to messages sent from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, eastern Europe, Barcelona, Manchester and London.

Mrs Hurlstone had told her husband while he was working away from home that she had £4,000 in cash saved for winter.

When he returned in August last year the money could not be found, and after an argument on August 16 she left the caravan.

A phone which was found by her police on her body contained a memo message which she had written at 10.26pm on August 16, just over an hour after she left her husband. It read, “David I’m sorry they’ve got me again”. The message was never sent to Mr Hurlstone.

An autopsy was carried out by forensic pathologist Prof Guy Rutty.

He said in his report to the inquest that he could not make any comment as to whether it was a natural or unnatural death.

Police are carrying out fraud investigations in a bid to catch those responsible for the scams.

Speaking after the inquest, Det Sgt Jon Shield said: “The message we need to get across to people is that if an offer seems to good to be true it usually is.

“People are told to send £1,000 to release a £1m lottery win but it is always a load of rubbish. In Sharon’s case she was sending the money and then waiting for her prize to be released. From the investigations we don’t know how she died but it is very tragic.

“There are criminal gangs worldwide that carry out these scams and we are working to both crackdown on these criminals and educate and warn people not to get caught by the scams.”