‘Middle class’ beautician, 32, died of overdose after she ‘escaped being trafficked’ 

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A beautician died of an overdose after her ‘middle-class’ upbringing spiralled into a murky underworld when she began abusing drugs and alcohol. 

The family of Emma Sheref told a inquest how she had been sucked into drug addiction and suffered PTSD after a boyfriend tried to sell her to drug dealers to pay off debts.  

The mum-of-one was found dead in her flat in Canterbury, Kent, earlier this year – a month after she was last seen.

It marked the end of a long battle with drugs which saw her almost trafficked after a stint in a South African rehab facility.

Coroner James Dillon said at the inquest into her death: ‘The police said she was at risk of sexual exploitation, or even murder.

Emma Sheref, 32, was found dead in her flat earlier this year - a month after she had last been seen, an inquest was told

Emma Sheref, 32, was found dead in her flat earlier this year – a month after she had last been seen, an inquest was told

The family of Emma Sheref told a inquest how she had been sucked into drug addiction and suffered PTSD after a boyfriend tried to sell her to drug dealers to pay off debts

The family of Emma Sheref told a inquest how she had been sucked into drug addiction and suffered PTSD after a boyfriend tried to sell her to drug dealers to pay off debts

‘It was a very, very serious situation she got mixed up in.’ 

The inquest heard how the 32-year-old died of a fatal morphine overdose. 

Her grieving family say their loss shows how addiction ‘can happen to anybody.’ 

Speaking at the inquest, her family told how ‘cheeky and happy’ Emma had grown up in a middle class family and attended private school in Canterbury.

Her older sister Lucy Lucraft, 37, described Emma as ‘a very happy child’. 

But while growing up in Herne Bay she was bullied at school and her mental health began to suffer.

Emma – a former pupil of St Edmund’s School in Canterbury and the £5,000-a-term St Lawrence College in Ramsgate – told her family she was excluded by her fellow pupils and called named in school.  

She began self harming at the age of nine.

As she grew up, Emma trained as a tattoo artist and piercer and eventually launched her own beauty salon – The Wingham Sanctuary. She also had a son in 2012. 

Her mental health began to deteriorate when she split with her son's father in 2015 and turned to drugs and alcohol

Her mental health began to deteriorate when she split with her son’s father in 2015 and turned to drugs and alcohol

But things began to spiral when Emma split with her son’s father in 2015 and she turned to drugs and alcohol.  

Emma’s mum described this as ‘the catalyst for Emma’s mental health deteriorating’ and had to step in to take care of her young son. 

‘She slowly turned everything in on herself,’ said Angela Sheref in a statement read before the inquest. 

Her life spiralled and her family encouraged her to seek professional help to stop using drugs and alcohol as a crutch. 

After she went missing in 2016, and took an overdose after a night out, Emma agreed to attend a rehab facility in South Africa.  

Following the treatment, Emma moved to the city of Durban with a boyfriend, and began using drugs again.

Her mother described how she had to rescue her daughter from South Africa after her boyfriend who owed money to drug dealers, had allegedly attempted to sell her to them in lieu of payment.

The Kent beautician had a happy 'middle class' upbringing growing up in Herne Bay. She also launched her own beauty salon

The Kent beautician had a happy ‘middle class’ upbringing growing up in Herne Bay. She also launched her own beauty salon

Emma was last seen alive by a neighbour who saw her staggering outside her one-bed flat in Canterbury on March 8. She was found dead by police officers a month later on April 2

Emma was last seen alive by a neighbour who saw her staggering outside her one-bed flat in Canterbury on March 8. She was found dead by police officers a month later on April 2

She was saved from being trafficked and sexually exploited and her mother Angela brought her home.

Emma, who had already been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, was diagnosed with PTSD following the harrowing experience. 

She sought help from psychiatric services but soon stopped going to the appointments. 

She was last seen alive by a neighbour who saw her staggering outside her one-bed flat in Canterbury on March 8.   

‘She was struggling to get her car on the driveway,’ he said in a statement read before the inquest.

‘I saw Emma get out of her car. She appeared to be unsteady on her feet, and was holding onto the car.’

Police found her body in the flat almost a month later on April 2 after Emma’s mother called concerned that she had not see her daughter in several weeks.  

A tourniquet was found on her arm along with a puncture mark, and drug paraphernalia was also found at the scene.

A post-mortem found her death had been caused by fatal morphine consumption

A post-mortem found her death had been caused by fatal morphine consumption

A post-mortem found her death had been caused by fatal morphine consumption.

On Thursday, the coroner concluded Emma died a ‘drug-related death’ – ruling out suicide as a possible cause, in the absence of any indication she had intended to take her own life.

Speaking after the inquest, Emma’s sister Lucy encouraged anyone suffering from mental illness or addiction to seek the resources offered by charity Mind. 

She warned that this could ‘happen to anyone’.  

‘I think addiction and mental health problems are not always at the forefront of people’s minds, but right now they really should be,’ she said.

‘Mental health services are being cut, and this happened while we were in a lockdown in a global pandemic, which made things particularly tricky.

‘And that’s the case with so many very vulnerable people – that they’re so much more isolated and vulnerable right now.

‘Emma was a middle-class girl; had a ‘good’ upbringing, had a lot of opportunities. But these things can happen to anybody.’ 

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