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Mother who lost a fifth of her life; PENARTH: Author unable to write while questions about her daughter's death remain unanswered.

Byline: TONY TRAINOR

AWARD-WINNING author CarolAnn Courtney has spoken for the first time of the anger and pain she has suffered since the death of her daughter Kirstie-Ann earlier this year.

Mrs Courtney, 56, whose autobiographical novel Morphine and Dolly Mixtures became an acclaimed film starring Patrick Bergin, has not put pen to paper since losing her daughter.

The Penarth-based writer is haunted by the circumstances of the death and says the subsequent police investigation raised unanswered questions.

Kirstie-Ann, a 29-year-old staff nurse who had reported an allegation of assault days before her death, was found dead at her home in Penarth on Thursday, February 1.

She had spoken to police earlier in the week, when she was described as having two "massive black eyes".

A scenes-of-crime officer called on the Tuesday at her home in Clive Place to take photographs of her injuries but received no reply and left a note.

Kirstie-Ann's father David reported her missing and accompanied police officers to the flat two days later. They climbed through a back window and found her body lying face down on the hall landing. A telephone was under the body and the front door was said to be locked from the inside.

An initial post-mortem examination failed to determine the cause of death but a further examination of blood and urine samples revealed toxic levels of the drug dothiepin. At an inquest in Cardiff in August the coroner recorded a verdict of misadventure.

Mr and Mrs Courtney say more evidence should have been presented in the hope of shedding light on the precise circumstances of Kirstie-Ann's death. After taking legal advice, they are now considering their next move.

Mrs Courtney had been looking forward to the publication of her latest novel, The Toffee Apple Woman, when her life was turned upside down by her daughter's death. It is a disturbing irony that the book tells of a mother who finds her daughter dead after a heroin overdose, although Kirsty was not a drug user. Another unpublished work, The Balance of the Mind is Undisturbed, tells of a mother whose daughter is murdered. Both novels were written before KirstieAnn's death and they are not based on the author's own experiences.

Kirstie-Ann was the third of five children and was brought up as a daughter by Mrs Courtney's second husband David, a chartered architect.

Mrs Courtney said she remained convinced that Kirstie-Ann would not have willingly taken her own life.

She said, "My worst fear was to lose a child. It was something that influenced my writing before losing KirstieAnn. I was always looking both ways for my children. They really are my life. Now a fifth of my life is gone."

Mrs Courtney said she hoped to return to her writing after the grief for her daughter became bearable.

"I made a promise to women some years ago during the No Excuses campaign against domestic violence that I would write a book to highlight the issues, and I want to keep my promise, " she said.

A book, a film and a sequel THE autobiographical novel Morphine and Dolly Mixtures was made into a Bafta-winning film starring Patrick Bergin.

It was directed by Karl Francis and produced by Ruth Caleb.

Carol-Ann Courtney based the book on her childhood experience of having to care for her dying father, three brothers and a baby sister after the death of her own mother.

The sequel to the novel, A Shilling for the Axeman, also received critical acclaim.

Mrs Courtney, who has suffered for the past decade from Crohn's disease, has also taken part in television documentary programmes to highlight the illness.

CAPTION(S):

QUESTIONS: Novelist Carol-Ann Courtney at her home in Penarth Picture: TREVOR WATERS MISADVENTURE: KirstieAnn Courtney
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 9, 2001
Words:624
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