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Nurse laid to rest 30 years after mystery death

By Richard Allen Greene
CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Helen Smith fell to her death from an apartment building in Saudi Arabia on May 20, 1979
  • Press reports said she had been at a party where alcohol was being drunk and that a man's body was found alongside her
  • Official Saudi investigation found that the couple, possibly drunk, had fallen to their deaths
  • Her father fought coroner Philip Gill in court for years demanding that he hold an inquest
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A British woman who died in mysterious circumstances more than 30 years ago in Saudi Arabia was due finally to be laid to rest Monday, her father told CNN.

Helen Smith, a nurse who was working in Jeddah, fell to her death from an apartment building on May 20, 1979.

Press reports said she had been at a party where alcohol was being drunk -- in a country where it is officially banned -- and that a man's body was found alongside her. Smith was clothed, but the man was partially undressed, reports at the time said.

"The circumstance of her fall and death are by no means clear," a British judge considering the case said more than three years later.

They still aren't -- so Smith's body laid in a morgue ever since, with her father refusing to let her be buried.

Under pressure from Helen's mother -- from whom he is separated -- Ronald Smith finally relented, British media reported.

The body was due to be cremated Monday afternoon, he told CNN.

"Her ashes will be scattered on Ilkley moor on Wednesday," he said.

Ronald Smith originally demanded that a British coroner investigate his daughter's death, but the coroner balked, arguing that he did not have jurisdiction to examine a death abroad.

Smith fought coroner Philip Gill in court for years, first demanding that Gill hold an inquest -- or an official investigation into the cause and circumstances of a death -- then demanding that Gill assign someone else to do it when Smith lost trust in Gill.

Gill ultimately did conduct an inquest, with Britain's West Yorkshire police investigating.

The police found as many as 30 potential witnesses in Australia, North Borneo, Saudi Arabia, North America, Iraq and various locations in Europe, court papers show. Investigators went abroad, interviewed potential witnesses and obtained photos, but Ronald Smith remained unsatisfied with the results.

The official Saudi investigation found that the couple, possibly drunk, had fallen to their deaths, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

The coroner's office for the Eastern District of West Yorkshire on Monday declined to comment on the case, saying, "Any issues relating to the death of Helen Smith are a matter for the family."

 
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