The family of a Brit who died in a horror fall on holiday in Turkey on her 40th birthday believe her drink had been spiked.
Tragic Sarah Standerwick fell over the railings of a hotel stairwell after jumping out of bed in the middle of the night with suspected hallucinations.
Her family say she had earlier attended a boat party with her long-term partner Steve Higgins, 60, and had begun to act wildly out of character.
Sarah, of Queen Camel, Somerset, who her family say never took drugs or suffered any mental health illness, had earlier happily posed for pictures with as they got on the boat trip in Marmaris.
But her mood quickly changed onboard and she started to display unusual behaviour and told her partner she was “being chased by gremlins.”
The couple went back to their hotel room in the hope she would sleep it off but Sarah woke up, bolted out of the room and ran down the corridor before her fatal fall.
Her devastated family say they are struggling to come to terms with the incident but have spoken out to criticise the British Embassy for what they claim has been a lack of support.
They are looking for help after becoming embroiled in a dispute with the Turkish authorities as all of their daughter’s personal items and jewellery are currently being withheld.
The Foreign office said they had given the family advice on how to contact a Turkish solicitor.
But dad Colin, 69, of Dobwalls, Cornwall, said: “We have been left to our own devices and don’t know what we are doing.
“We don’t have any definite answers about what happened to Sarah and we can only make assumptions but her character changed dramatically 36 hours before she died.
“She fell to her death on her 40th birthday while ‘running away from gremlins’ and she was hallucinating.
“What we have been told is that her character changed dramatically overnight. Our grandson had been spiked before and he and she were saying exactly the same things. It was like listening to a tape recorder.
“We think she has definitely been spiked. People might say that this is how we want things to fit but it was so out of character.
“If she was considering taking her own life there was a balcony right outside her room. Why would she run down a long corridor and then fall over the rails of a stair case?
“We want a lot of answers to a lot of questions. Further tests have been done in this country but the body in flight had to be embalmed so that limits what they can do.
“They also apparently did toxicology reports in Turkey but we haven’t been given the results of those.
“All we know is that they went on a boat and got a photo taken at 10am. Then they changed on the boat and she became very silent.
“She felt tired when she got off and they went to a restaurant but she couldn’t handle the music so they went back to the hotel room.
“Three hours later she got up in the middle of the night, ran out the bathroom and that was it.”
Sarah, who worked as a jewellery merchandiser and didn’t have children, had gone on the ten day trip with Steve and another couple to celebrate her birthday in October last year.
Colin added: “We don’t know what went on but she changed dramatically in a few hours. She had no mental health issues and didn’t do drugs. There has to be an explanation of what went on.
“Her partner said if they had been in the UK he would have taken her to the doctor or hospital straight away or called us. But he told her if she was no better in the morning she would get her to a doctor.”
The battle with the British and Turkish authorities is not just in finding out what happened – but also getting Sarah’s jewellery and personal possessions back home.
Colin, who is a retired pig farmer, said: ‘They would not recognise her fiancé as her next of kin.
“There are 11 pieces including rings, a necklace and bracelet, it is of sentimental value to us and we do not want the Turkish officials to keep it.”
Colin and his wife Sandra, 64, have now been told they will need to obtain the official inheritance documents from the probate office, take them to the Turkish Consulate in the UK to have them ‘apostilled’ before flying out to Istanbul with official notarised authorisation from all the named inheritors to go to court to get the jewellery released.
Alternatively they could employ a Turkish solicitor.
Colin added: “Grieving families should not have to go through all this red tape.
“It is so stressful – we are not asking for a lot and I wonder how many other families have suffered the same treatment from British and Turkish officials.
“The British Foreign Office should be acting on our behalf and they are not. They have given us very little assistance and we feel that they could be doing a lot more in taking this problem on board and coming to a satisfactory outcome.
“They have the contacts it is very difficult for the average person to deal with this sort of thing. Hopefully with us putting pressure on them and publicising our situation we may be able to change the system.
“The coroner is god in Turkey and runs everything. There was no next of kin with her and they would not release it to her partner’s possession. They had been together for 19 years but were not married so he was not the next of kin.
“We have been treated like second class citizens. They should have been returned with her.
“We have been told to instruct a solictor in Turkey but we tried and could not understand what they were saying.
“The jewellery is basically sentimental and is nothing of great monetary value. But her partner wanted them back and this is about the principle.
“It is a nightmare dealing with the Turkish authorities and I thought the British Embassy was there to help families like ours.
“They know what buttons to push but they have been no help at all.
“I don’t know what is happening with the autopsy. They were supposed to have done one in Turkey but it has been four months now and we have heard nothing so I don’t hold out much hope.
“We feel stuck in a nightmare. We should not have to be dealing with this and we are totally lost. We are not very streetwise and just needed some help.
“The British embassy could be doing a lot more than they are. What are they there for?
“We have not chosen to go public with this for headline news. It has been a tough decision to talk about it and is something we did not need. But we have to make a stand.”
The Standerwick’s local MP Sheryll Murray has also contacted the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on their behalf.
She received a letter back from Sir Alan Duncan MP, the Minister responsible for relations with Turkey which reiterated that the family would have to travel to Turkey with legal documents to collect Sarah’s belongings or appoint a lawyer in Turkey.
A Foreign & Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: “The Standerwick family have our deepest sympathies at what continues to be a deeply difficult time.
“Our staff have been offering advice and support since Sarah’s death, liaising with the police and coroner’s office and setting out the options available to them, including how to engage a lawyer in Turkey if they wish to do so.”