A PENSIONER suffered “catastrophic” head injuries when she fell down church stairs after she suffered a heart attack, a Bolton inquest heard.

Edith Shirley Hale, aged 71, who was known as Shirley, had been singing in the choir at St Augustine’s Church in Tonge Moor before she made her way down a set of spiral stone steps.

Church server Peter Gore, who was behind her on the staircase, saw her twist round and face him with a “vacant expression” before she fell.

An ambulance was called and paramedics battled to resuscitate her.

Mrs Hale, who had a history of coronary artery disease and had recently had a stent fitted, died at the Royal Bolton Hospital after the fall on December 22 last year.

Dr Emil Salmo, a pathologist at the hospital, said Mrs Hale had thrombosis in one of the coronary arteries with a narrowing of 80 per cent, which is likely to have led to the blood clot causing the heart attack.

Bolton Council's environmental health department was informed about the incident and, after an investigation, the only recommendation to the church was to change two lights to a higher wattage of bulb.

Mrs Hale, who was a member of the church for between 20 and 30 years, leaves two sons, Andy and Rob, her elderly mother, and sisters Christine and Maureen.

Recording a narrative verdict, coroner Alan Walsh said that Mrs Hale “died of injuries sustained in a fall consequent of a cardiac artery thrombosis”.

In an earlier tribute, the vicar of St Augustine’s, Father Tony Davies, said: “She was loved and respected not only within the parish of Tonge Moor, but also throughout the Diocese of Manchester.

“She had been a regular member of St Augustine's congregation for a great many years and was a valued member of the choir.

“She will be missed very much by everyone who knew her.”

The family declined to comment.