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Inquest: Singer Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning

From Erin McLaughlin and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
October 27, 2011 -- Updated 0841 GMT (1641 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Three empty vodka bottles were found in Winehouse's home, the inquest hears
  • The singer's personal security guard recounts details of her last hours
  • Her family hopes a foundation set up in her memory will help other young people
  • Winehouse was found dead at age 27 at her London home in July

London (CNN) -- Singer Amy Winehouse's death this summer was the result of alcohol poisoning, an inquest ruled Wednesday, as it reached a verdict of "death by misadventure."

A pathologist told a coroner's court in north London that alcohol toxicity was the cause of the 27-year-old's death, with her blood-alcohol levels measured at more than five times the legal limit for driving.

The Grammy award-winning artist, who had battled with alcohol and drug abuse over several years, was found dead at her north London home July 23.

Testimony at her inquest showed no traces of illegal drugs in Winehouse's system -- but more details emerged about her losing battle with alcohol.

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Winehouse's physician, Dr. Christina Romete, said she saw Winehouse at 7 p.m. the day before she died, when the singer was tipsy but still able to hold a conversation.

Asked when she was going to stop drinking, Winehouse replied that she would call Romete over the weekend to discuss it, the physician said.

Winehouse was determined to do things her own way, including therapy, Romete said, but was aware of the risks of alcohol abuse.

The singer's personal security guard, Andrew Morris, said he last spoke to her at 2 a.m. on July 23. He said he looked in on her at 10 a.m. and saw her lying on her bed, but figured she was sleeping in, which wasn't unusual, the court heard.

Morris said he realized something was wrong when he checked in again at 3 p.m. and saw Winehouse had not moved. She wasn't breathing and had no pulse, he said.

Morris said the singer didn't "drink to get drunk," but that he noticed she had started drinking alcohol again that week.

Police who searched the flat after her death found three empty vodka bottles, the inquest heard.

The pathologist's tests revealed that Winehouse's blood-alcohol level was 416 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood. The level considered lethal is 350 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood, and the legal limit to drive in Britain is 80 milligrams of alcohol.

The pathologist found no traces of tablets in Winehouse's stomach and said her organs appeared to be normal.

The verdict of misadventure means that it is judged to be an accidental death in which no law was broken or criminal negligence involved.

A family statement, given by spokesman Chris Goodman, said: "It is (with) some relief we finally found out what happened to Amy.

"We understand there was alcohol in her system when she passed away. It is likely a buildup of alcohol in her system over a number of days.

"The court heard that Amy was battling hard to conquer her problems with alcohol and it is a source of great pain that she could not win in time. She had started drinking again that week after a period of abstinence," Goodman said.

Winehouse's father Mitch and mother Janet were among those who packed the small courtroom at St. Pancras Coroners Court to hear the evidence from key witnesses.

Her family set up the Amy Winehouse Foundation last month to raise money to help young people in Britain and elsewhere, especially those suffering the effects of ill health, disability, poverty and addiction.

Goodman said the ruling "underlines how important our work with the Amy Winehouse Foundation is to us to help as many young people and children we can in her name."

Winehouse's family said in August that toxicology tests had found that "no illegal substances" were in her system at the time of her death but alcohol was present.

The singer's soulful, throaty vocals brought her stardom in 2007, but her troubled off-stage life -- chronicled in her top 10 hit "Rehab" -- won her notoriety.

Her death came less than two months after her latest release from a rehabilitation program and weeks after she was booed offstage by disappointed fans in Serbia.

The tattooed London-born singer-songwriter's first album, "Frank," debuted in 2003, when she was 19.

International success came with her 2007 album "Back to Black." She dominated the 2008 Grammys, winning five awards that night and delivering, via satellite from London, a strong performance of "Rehab."

Mitch Winehouse has said he plans to write a memoir, called "Amy: My Daughter," to be released next summer, which he said would tell the story of the Amy that the public never got to know.

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