Actress who married prisoner Charles Bronson died of ‘drug toxicity’ – Coroner


An actress who married notorious prisoner Charles Bronson died from multiple drug toxicity after substances including cocaine were found in her system, a coroner has concluded.

Paula Williamson, 38, was discovered at home by her partner lorry driver Peter Jones in Gordon Avenue, Sneyd Green, Stoke-on-Trent on July 29, 2019, area coroner Emma Serrano said.

Ms Williamson, who was an animal lover, was described by family in court on Wednesday as a "brilliant" daughter and a "lovely girl", who was just "teetering on the edge of getting her life back in order" when she died.

She had suffered with mental health issues and had previously made two suicide attempts in previous years, but had lately found happiness with Mr Jones, who she had described as her "angel", the court heard.

Stoke-born Ms Williamson, who in summer last year announced that she and Mr Bronson had applied to have their marriage annulled, had studied performing arts at Manchester University and played minor roles in Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

She met the renowned criminal in prison in late 2016, and they were married in November 2017.

Miss Serrano, sitting at Stoke and North Staffordshire Coroner's Court on Wednesday, heard Ms Williamson – also known as Paula Joy Salvador – had a previous history of "anxiety and depression".

The inquest was told how on the Sunday evening before her death, Ms Williamson had been out drinking with a friend, while her partner Mr Jones had stayed at their home.

When she returned from her night out, Mr Jones said she had become "angry" at having earlier been refused entry to a nightclub in Hanley by a doorman, for being too drunk.

There was then what he described as "a slight episode" at the house where she took up a knife and spoke of going to get the bouncer, however Mr Jones "calmed" her down and she eventually went to bed at around midnight.

Charles Bronson
Charles Bronson

However, when Mr Jones – who had slept on the sofa to leave her in peace – went to check on her at 6.40am on the Monday, he found her lifeless on her back, in the bed, and dialled 999.

There were signs she had vomited and close by were two white self-seal bags; one containing cocaine, the other empty but having also had cocaine inside.

A toxicology report found traces of the drug as well as alcohol and other prescription medication in her system.

Bronson – now known as Charles Salvador – appeared on a video-link for the hearing, wearing a stripy top, as next-of-kin to Ms Williamson.

Asked by the coroner if he had any questions, he said: "First of all, respect for the dignified way Paula's mum has handled the situation.

"As far as I am concerned, there should be two scumbags in this courtroom; the person who gave her the drugs, and the other; the geezer in her house, who reported it, and should have been looking after her."

He added: "I'd like to know why the police haven't investigated the scumbag who's given her the drugs in the first place.

"Because if I was on the outside, I would have his name and address within 24 hours."

The coroner heard evidence that it was unclear when and from whom Ms Williamson had sourced the cocaine, and that on her night out she had spoken of wanting to take some.

Miss Serrano also heard the actress was on prescription medication including sedatives and had traces of a powerful painkiller in her blood.

The coroner gave Ms Williamson's cause of death as multiple drug toxicity but ruled out a conclusion of suicide as "there was nothing to suggest she wasn't happy" at the time of her death.

Miss Serrano said: "She was happy and in a text to her partner, she said 'you've given me a reason to live' and she was forward-planning for a life with him."

Giving her conclusion, the coroner added: "Paula had taken a multitude of different substances , one being cocaine, which worked together, causing her to pass away.

"She's taken them not appreciating the effect those would have on her."

Earlier, the coroner had to step in after Mr Jones had given evidence, when he was referred to as a "muppet" by Bronson.

Miss Serrano then had to repeatedly warn the notorious prisoner about his conduct.

Bronson concluded, telling Mr Jones he held him "totally responsible" adding: "I will have a little chat with you later, don't you worry about that".

Miss Serrano then intervened saying: "This isn't somewhere where we are apportioning blame, and I will not have anybody making veiled threats to people in court."

Bronson replied: "I never made a threat, I just made a promise – but I'll take that one on the chin, your honour."

Getting up to leave the hearing after finishing his evidence, a visibly upset Mr Jones – described by a friend of Miss Williamson as "her rock" – referred to Bronson's remarks, saying "I've had all this for 18 months – I'm not taking no more, today is done."

As the inquest concluded, her brother Dave Knapper told the coroner his sibling had a "happy childhood and a good upbringing".

He added: "Maybe because the acting career didn't take off, maybe she was looking for something to replace that – a substitute – and that's one of the reasons she ended up marrying Charlie."

The family "did not approve" of the marriage to Bronson but when she met Mr Jones a year before her death, Miss Williamson "seemed far more happy", her mother Hazel Williamson told the inquest.

She added: "She was set on acting from a young age and maybe because it didn't materialise the way she wished it, was very upsetting (for her).

"She was brilliant and a lovely daughter."