THE death of a woman whose body was hidden in an airing cupboard by her partner, remains a mystery.

The body of 44-year-old Victoria Cherry was so severely decomposed that no definitive verdict could be reached, Bolton Coroner's Court ruled.

Area coroner for Manchester West, Alan Walsh, said there was evidence of health problems, drug use and neck fractures but the body's decomposition left him with no choice but to record an open conclusion.

In June, Andrew Reade was jailed for four years and four months for concealing the body in the cupboard at their shared top floor flat in Toronto Street, Breightmet.

Family had reported the mother-of-three missing to police in October, 2015 but her body was not discovered by police until January this year — 15 months after it was concealed.

Victoria, known to family as Vicky, was born in Preston where she lived with her father and his second wife, and later with her grandma.

She had a daughter, Robyn Swain, with partner-of-four-years Owen Saunders, and two children with a subsequent partner.

The inquest heard that Victoria suffered from depression and insomnia, and had a stillborn baby, Reece, with partner Stephen Cherry, who died in 2012.

At the start of 2014, Victoria met Reade, aged 43, at Cherry Lodge hostel, in Blackburn.

Victoria's mother Janet Hughes said: "He was very possessive.

"At one point she said she would be leaving him.

"The relationship was up and down."

Victoria was estranged from her family had not spoken with her mother or daughter before December, 2014, at which time she began texting Robyn every day.

Robyn said: "As far as I was aware, they lived a hermit life. But she looked happy with Andrew in photos."

The couple were both patients at Maxwell's Chemist which they attended daily for a methadone prescription — given by doctors as a substitute for heroin.

Pharmacist Tracey Kenyon said: "On October 6, 2015, they both attended. We didn't see Vicky after that but Andrew carried on as normal.

"He said she was in hospital but he didn't say why. He said the family had taken her home to Blackburn.

"Then later he said she had died in his arms."

Other deceptions followed, including that Victoria was working in a care home with her mother. But the inquest heard the family had no connection with Blackburn.

Durning a second interview with police, Reade said the couple were using heroin but both fell asleep.

He told police Victoria was lying over him when he woke up and he knew something was wrong.

The inquest heard how Reade wrapped his partner's body in a duvet and plastic sheets and it was found beneath a pile of debris.

Forensic pathologist Dr Philip Lumb said: "The body was severely decomposed which made the assessment very difficult."

A post mortem examination found damage to Victoria's neck and voice box, as well as fractures to her nose, left cheek bone and skull, which were said to be weeks to months old.

Drugs found inside her body included methadone, morphine, noscapine, benzodiazepine, and pain relief drugs.

Coroner Walsh said: "I'm satisfied that exhaustive inquiries arising from very thorough examinations have been made, and that the cause of death is recorded as unascertained.

"We know Vicky suffered with some physical health problems and other illnesses during her life.

"We know she used drugs and we know that those drugs were found in the liver tissue though levels could not be identified, although the combination of drugs found could have caused death.

"We know she had some neck fractures that could not be determined because her body was found severely decomposed.

"I have no alternative but to record the death as unascertained.