A MOTHER and son who died within four months of each other could both have been suffocated, an inquest heard yesterday.

Nicholas Beacham, 27, and his mother Catherine Mantle, 45, both died at their home in Rhoslan, Tredegar, last year.

Police treated both deaths as suspicious but no criminal proceedings followed their investigations.

At Newport coroner's court yesterday, two Home Office pathologists each said they could not rule out the possibility of suffocation.

Nicholas Beacham died on June 18, 2002, just days after he was released on bail after being a remand prisoner in Cardiff.

Gwent coroner David Bowen read a statement from the late Catherine Mantle which said her son had been in and out of prison for the previous six years and was a regular heroin user.

The inquest heard Mr Beacham had spent the days leading up to his death with his girlfriend Sarah Brook and had been taking drugs, including heroin, before he died.

He was found dead in his bedroom by his father, David Beacham, just after midday.

Home Office pathologist Dr Stephen Leadbetter said the amount of drugs in Mr Beacham's system was "not significant", but that a prison detoxification programme may have reduced his tolerance and caused his death.

But Mr Leadbetter added: "It has to be said that one might cause a person to die through suffocation by obstructing the airway and if a person was unable to resist that attempt then we would not see any evidence that it could have occurred."

Mr Bowen recorded a verdict of misadventure, saying: "I am satisfied that the heroin was self-administered by Mr Beacham in pursuance of his drug habit."

The inquest then heard that following her son's death Catherine Mantle had been drinking heavily and David Beacham had moved back into her home.

Mr Bowen said the couple's relationship was "stormy", and Detective Constable Blair Jones said: "We had been called to the address on numerous occasions."

The inquest heard that Ms Mantle was found dead in her bedroom on September 28 and had been drinking heavily the previous evening.

Home Office pathologist Derek James offered several explanations for Ms Mantle's death including a heart attack triggered by the stress of her son's death and increased drinking.

But the pathologist added: "It should be borne in mind that suffocation need not leave any marks behind, if through drink or drugs they could not put up a struggle then there need not be any marks at all."

He added that the amount of alcohol in Ms Mantle's system could have left her "unconscious".

Mr Bowen said: "In reality it is unclear as to how she died." He recorded an open verdict.

Speaking after the verdicts, Ms Mantle's sister, Meryl Williams, of Tredegar, said: "We are happy with the open verdict but not with the misadventure."