AN ELDERLY woman who was found unconscious on the Barfleur Ferry suffered a brain haemorrhage after falling or tripping, an inquest heard. Dorset Coroner Sheriff Payne, inset, said the absence of any witnesses meant it was impossible to be sure how 70-year-old Rita Melvin had ended up on the floor of the Cherbourg to Poole ferry.

But he ruled out any suspicious circumstances and said there was no evidence of any sudden illness that contributed to her death.

He concluded she must have either fallen or collapsed and sustained a serious bump to her head, which caused her to suffer massive internal bleeding in her brain. He recorded a verdict of accidental death.

The inquest at Bournemouth Coroner’s Court yesterday heard Mrs Melvin, of West Moors Road, Ferndown, was found by fellow passenger and former nurse Jane Rudland at around 8.45pm on Thursday, April 10.

She was lying on her back near to the toilets and a flight of stairs.

When asked whether it looked like she could have fallen down the stairs, Mrs Rudland said: “It wasn’t obvious. When I saw her lying there it didn’t look as if she had fallen from anywhere.”

She said she initially presumed Mrs Melvin had fainted or collapsed.

Mrs Melvin received medical assistance from Mrs Rudland and another passenger, who was an occupational therapist, in the ferry’s sick bay before being transferred by ambulance to Poole Hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.

A post-mortem found she died from intracerebral and mid-brain haemorrhage due to a blunt trauma.