The death of a young mother and her baby son at their home in Cumbria has been called a "tragedy of unimaginable proportions" by a coroner.
At an inquest into the deaths of Natalie Kane and her 14-month-old son, loved ones said the deaths which happened in their home at Christmas were "utterly heartbreaking."
During a hearing in Cockermouth on Tuesday 6 September, the 27-year-olds brother Shane Evitts described his sisters involvement in the Sea Cadets and the Army service from the age of 18.
Mr Evitts told how Ms Kane had experienced difficult times after leaving the Army which included drug addiction and depression. He added however that there was a positive change following the birth of her son Harry in October 2020.
He said: “She suddenly grew up, she was so loving, caring and thoughtful. She was one of the best mums I have ever seen.”
The inquest heard that Harry was a well cared-for infant.
In December 2021, Mr Evitts said Ms Kane was looking forward to Christmas Day when Shane visited her two days beforehand during a visit to her Wellington Row flat in Whitehaven.
Earlier in the month, Natalie had told a member of the Recovery Steps group that she was "doing great" and had also tested negative for all substances other than her prescribed methadone.
Ms Kane went shopping with her friend Stacey Hackett on Christmas Eve and was due to spend Christmas Day with her too.
Yet Ms Kane was last seen at around 5.30pm by a Tesco store assistant, and messages sent by her friend after that went unread and FaceTime calls would not connect.
Ms Hackett said her friend's failure to turn up on Christmas was not concerning as she thought Ms Kane has decided to spend the day with relatives or alone with Harry instead.
There were no sightings of Ms Kane after that for several days.
Rebecca Todd, the centre manager for the support group Women Out West, contacted the police on 30 December after Ms Kane failed to collect her methadone prescription the previous day.
Ms Todd also conducted a welfare check which received no response, something which was described as "out of character."
Police found the door to Ms Kane's home insecure and when entering found her body in the living room near the Christmas tree and its unopened presents. Her son Harry's body was in the bathroom with a bath tap still running.
An empty butane lighter fluid canister and several more were located nearby along with two beer cans and empty methadone medication.
Tests indicated shortly before her death butane had been inhaled which according to a pathologist was due to lighter fuel (butane and propane).
Her young son is thought to have died from dehydration, which the inquest heard is likely to have happened over a number of days following his mother dying.
Summing up the evidence, assistant Cumbria coroner Ms Margaret Taylor spoke of an “incredibly distressing case”.
Ms Taylor gave her condolence to loved ones of Ms Kane and her son.
She then added: “The purchase of that lighter fluid set in motion unimaginably tragic events and these have led directly to Natalie’s death and thereafter that, some time later, Harry’s death as well.”
Ms Taylor concluded that both died between 24 and 30 December.
Ms Taylor said it was likely Ms Kane succumbed to the effect of voluntary butane inhalation.
Her 14-month-old son's death was due to being “left alone and unable to fend for himself due to his tender age”.