THE grieving twin of tragic mum Lynne Spalding has told of his harrowing visit to the spot where his sister was found dead more than two weeks after going missing from her room at a San Francisco hospital.
Bill Spalding, 57, clams he has had no help from the British authorities after he flew out to California, where sister Lynne was found.
Lynne, originally from Peterlee, had lived in the Unites States for more than 20 years when she was admitted to hospital last year for a water infection.
When staff realised the mum-of-two had disappeared from her room on September 21, a search was carried out, but Lynne was not found until 17 days later, having accidentally been locked in a stairwell.
She died from dehydration which, according to the medical examiner’s report, was linked to alcoholism.
But, speaking to the Echo, Bill says the divorcee was not an alcoholic and was a successful executive, organising events in high-end hotels in the Californian city.
She lived in a rented $3,000-per-month apartment with picture-postcard views and had a busy social life.
Arriving there on October 19, Bill and wife Gill, 53, of Easington Lane, headed for the British Consulate, thinking help and advice would be forthcoming. Bill went to visit the hospital where Lynne was found, but says consular staff told him he could not go, claiming it would be a conflict of interest.
Bill and Gill visited the hospital regardless.
“It was a case of humanity. It wasn’t complicated at all, it was simple,” Bill said. “The door to the stairwell, as we got out of the lift, is right in the front of you. It wasn’t some back stairwell that was hidden away, it’s right in the middle of the hospital overlooking a communal seating area.
“It was a concrete stairwell, similar to one in a car park. There was this mark on the concrete, this distortion. She had been lying there three weeks. It wasn’t pretty.
“It was rippled and discoloured, in the shape of a body. I could see where her head had been. I put my hand on it. My wife was with me and I said a few words. It was a little personal conversation with my sister. It was peaceful and there was light from the door.” Bill said the visit offered him much-needed reassurance that his sister had been dead for some time when she was found.
“It gave me a better idea than the medical examiner’s report,” he said. “All it said was that she died some days earlier.
“I wanted to be where she had been for 17 days. She detested being on her own, so if Lynne had a moment of lucidity, I just wanted to go there to look at the wall she looked at and just be there.”
Three months on, Foreign Office minister Hugh Robertson has apologised for the way he was treated.
But Bill, who works as a carer for adults with autism at a centre in Durham, is still fighting for answers.
“It’s my twin sister. I want the British Government to step forward and support my sister. It’s three months now, I can’t even grieve.
“Both my parents are dead. Now my twin sister is gone and it’s only me. I have a duty to find out what happened to her.”