A TESCO worker called ‘mummy’ by her colleagues collapsed and died after confronting suspected shoplifters in the shop where she worked since it opened, an inquest heard.
Hilary Simmons is said to have slumped to the floor about 30 minutes after the altercation at an Express store in Middlesbrough.
The jury inquest at Teesside Magistrates’ Court heard the 59-year-old was suffering from a heart condition at the time, but the confrontation “contributed significantly” to her death.
The “well respected” shift leader was working at the Corporation Road store on April 30 last year when she died.
During her late shift, two suspected shoplifters entered and she confronted them, the inquest was told.
But within half an hour of the incident, the 59-year-old mum-of-two collapsed, the jury heard.
She was pronounced dead at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, later that evening.
The inquest heard the mother-of-two had “severe” heart disease which was undiagnosed and that the stress of the incident had contributed to her death, but not to a criminal standard.
Four arrests were made after Mrs Simmons’ death as part of a manslaughter investigation but all were later released and the police investigation was closed in May.
The popular shift leader was working at the Corporation Road store in Middlesbrough when she died[/caption]
The inquest heard the mum, from Ingleby Barwick, was “shaken and felt unwell” after the incident.
At one point she was heard to say: “I feel like I’m going to have a heart attack”.
Her husband Stan, went to visit her at the A&E department of the hospital after being told his wife had “taken ill.” He was told by doctors that “she could not be saved.”
She had worked for Tesco for 18 years and at the Corporation Road shop since it opened.
In a statement read to the court Stan said: “(Hilary) had a great personality and loved to laugh.
“She loved her work. She was very well liked in the store and known as ‘Tesco Mummy’.
“She must have stopped hundreds (of shoplifters) in her time. She would class the stock as being her own and not Tesco’s.”
The initial post mortem found that Mrs Simmons had no significant medical history but died “as a result of heart disease.”
A second found the “altercation contributed (to her death) but not to the criminal standards mark.”
The inquest heard Michael James Love stole a bottle of wine from the store and was caught by the mum-of-two
The confrontation ended after Love, who was previously banned for stealing, and a friend left the store.
Matthew Butt, who was appearing on behalf of Tesco, said that Love “had no cash” and put a bottle of wine in his jacket before being “challenged” by Mrs Simmons.
Giving evidence at the inquest, Love said he did deny stealing goods to her and said she “pushed and shoved him in chest.”
He said he used his “arm as a barrier” to prevent her from standing in front of him but that the contact was minimal. He denied pushing her but maintained she “hit” him.
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However, Mr Butt accused Mr Love of lying, and CCTV which the jury viewed did not show Mrs Simmons obstructing or hitting Mr Love during the confrontation.
“You’ve told lies about Hilary haven’t you?” He asked, with Mr Love replying that he had not.
The inquest is expected to last two or three days.