BLACK ice may have been the cause of a crash on the A40 in the Cotswolds which killed showroom manager Maura Drew, 57, an inquest heard yesterday.

The icy condition of the road at Windrush, near Northleach, could have been a significant factor in Maura's Suzuki Swift suddenly moving into the oncoming lane and hitting another car, the Gloucester inquest was told yesterday on Tuesday.

But senior Gloucestershire coroner Katy Skerrett said the reason for the collision early on the morning of January 14 would probably never be known and it may have been due just to momentary loss of concentration.

It was also possible that Night Nurse medication she had taken may have played a role in the tragedy, she said.

One of the tyres of Mrs Drew's car was under-inflated - but that was not thought by experts to be significant, added the coroner.

Mrs Skerrett recorded a conclusion that Mrs Drew, who was born in Waterford, Ireland, died by accident.

The inquest heard that Mrs Drew, of Insley Gardens, Hucclecote, Gloucester, had spent the weekend before the tragedy in Stevenage with her partner Trevor Beaton.

In a statement he said that on Monday, January 13 he went to work with a hangover and Maura had one too. He advised her not to travel home that day so she stayed overnight and got up early on Tuesday 14.

Mr Beaton said it was a very cold morning and he used hot water to de-ice her car for her. She left his house just after 5am to head home for a shower and then go to work.

There had been no indication that she was suffering from a cold or flu and he had not seen any Night Nurse in the house, he added.

In fact, when she left she did not seem tired and was 'livelier than her normal self.'

Simon Marshall stated that he was driving his Ford Fiesta to Aylesbury on that morning when he was 'suddenly aware of a big bang.'

He had not seen anything to cause the bang but had been aware of a car coming towards him in the other lane, he stated.

"I had no idea what caused the bang. The first thing I knew was being hit. There was a bang on the offside of my vehicle, my driver's side.

"I could feel my car going out of control. I was spinning and then came to a halt. It was so quick. "

He said his car landed on a wall and his driver's door would not open so he scrambled out of another door. He suffered only bruising in the collision.

Paramedic Kevin Mayo said when he arrived on the scene at 7.20am he saw Mrs Drew and pronounced her dead.

A post mortem result said Mrs Drew had quinine and antihistamine in her body but not at signfiicant levels. Quinine can be ingested from tonic water and the anti histamine was of the type found in Night Nurse.

The drug could cause drowsiness, dizziness and blurred vision.

Mrs Drew had suffered a massive peritoneal haemorrhage caused by loss of pelvic structure and the cause of death was given as multiple injuries.

Collision investigator Pc Phil Reese said the crash happened on a gradual bend where the road was shaded by trees and black ice patches had formed after recent rain which had frozen.

Mrs Drew's car had crossed the centre of the road into the other carriageway by one metre and the offside of her car had hit the offside of Mr Marshall's vehicle.

"The reason for this is not known," he said. "The weather conditions, medication or a combination of both are possible causation factors."

The coroner said "For reasons unbeknown the Suzuki crossed the central white line and she presented the offside of her vehicle to the offside of the oncoming vehicle.

"There are a number of potential accident factors. Quite which is the correct one probably we will never know.

"The road conditions at the time are clearly relevant. It was a cold January morning and there was black ice. It was a shady spot of road. That is clearly significant and cannot be ignored.

"The medication may have affected her ability to drive and that cannot be discounted It may just have been a momentary loss of concentration. We don't know."

Conclusion: Accidental death