Bereaved mum Julie won’t take ‘non’ for an answer

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A BORDERS mum has vowed to continue her battle to discover how her son died in France.

Julie Sheppard. who lives near Ettrickbridge, is now pinning her hopes on an English MP to apply pressure on the French authorities to give the family a full explanation of events leading up to the death of Andrew Watt, 31, who was found alone in a country lane, 140 miles west of Paris, in September, 2010.

His body was discovered in the village of Vimarce in the Pays de la Loire region, where he was living with his French girlfriend.

Three months later, his remains were returned to the UK – minus his heart and brain – and he was interred in January last year. The lack of his organs, which were eventually returned in February, meant a second post-mortem examination could not be ordered by the coroner in Andrew’s home town of Durham.

Julie, 51, recalled this week that when the family flew out to France the day after Andrew died, the French authorities put the cause of death down to heart failure caused by his ill-health. But she was convinced that the large amount of medication prescribed to her son, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, contributed to his death.

Friends and family took part in a charity walk along Hadrian’s Wall in June to help underwrite the cost of Julie making numerous trips to France, where she met officials from the regional justice department and the local victim support group.

After drawing a blank, she wrote to French president Nicolas Sarkozy and her hopes were raised in September when she was told he had personally instructed a member of his cabinet office to pass on all the details to his justice minister to investigate.

But between Christmas and New Year, Mrs Sheppard learned that M. Sarkozy had been unable to intervene because it was a matter for the regional authorities.

And, via the victim support group, she was told that a judicial inquiry and an inquest into the death had been held and had concluded that the case was closed, returning a verdict of “no offence”.

“I had no idea that any of this was taking place and have had no access to the relevant documents,” Julie told TheSouthern. “I just cannot understand why Andrew, who had a heart murmur diagnosed before he moved to France, was on 18 heavy-duty pills a day.”

She has now turned to Roberta Blackman-Woods, the Labour MP for Durham where the case is still on the files of the coroner, to apply pressure on the French authorities.

“It’s very frustrating,” said Julie. “Everything is just shutting down on us – the French authorities just want us to go away, but we’re not going to. The British embassy feels the French won’t give any information and so they have shut down on us too. So far, they have been giving the answers that they want to give.

“You are almost kept in the dark to the point where you realise they could actually get away with murder.

“Andrew was put on an enormous amount of medication which has caused fatalities in France and the States.

“It hasn’t been approved in the UK and that’s why I think the French authorities know that something went wrong.”