02/10/2012 13:01 BST | Updated 03/10/2012 11:21 BST

Exeter University Student Zara Malone Died Of Alcohol Abuse, Inquest Hears

A university student who "gave a little sunshine to everyone who met her" died as a result of alcohol abuse, an inquest heard.

Zara Malone, 22, was described as a "habitual heavy drinker" and had drunk "a large quantity of vodka" in the hours before she was found by her housemate, Francesca Parker, at the maisonette the duo shared in Exeter.

The University of Exeter student, a talented writer, was said to have had anxiety problems and battled various illnesses. She often shunned socialising and drank in her room, her friends told police.

Miss Malone's body was discovered on her bed in the students' home on Old Tiverton Road shortly after 9pm on February 7. Miss Parker said she had spoken to her friend earlier that day about the amount of vodka she had been drinking recently.

Emergency services called to the scene found Miss Malone's prone body covered in her vomit, and discovered two vodka bottles near her bed.

Coroner Elizabeth Earland said there was no evidence of suicide or foul play, and agreed with medical evidence which said Miss Malone's death was "a consequence of alcohol abuse".

The inquest in Exeter heard Miss Malone, originally from Plymouth, had previously been prescribed anti-depressants and had battled with anorexia and insomnia. She had also been treated for anxiety, the court heard.

In a statement read in court, Miss Parker said the duo had lived together in the maisonette since September 2010, but she had been worried about Miss Malone's drinking habits.

"I thought she was drinking too much," Miss Parker told police.

"I quite often saw bottles in her room. She didn't go out and socialise, and I would often find her in a state in her bedroom."

The night before Miss Malone died, Miss Parker said she had had to put her friend in the recovery position.

"I tried to get her to admit she had an alcohol problem," Miss Parker said, adding that she last saw her friend alive at 9.30am on February 7.

Miss Parker went to university and then to the gym, and checked on Miss Malone around 12 hours later when she made the grim discovery.

Recording a verdict of death by alcohol abuse, Dr Earland said: "Miss Malone was a habitual heavy drinker and had ingested a large quantity of vodka in the hours before her demise.

"I'm satisfied that her death was a consequence of alcohol abuse."

Miss Malone's parents, Roger and Liz, paid tribute to their daughter, describing her as a "vibrant, talented and caring person - a pivotal member of our family".

They added: "It was a privilege to have known her for 22 years. She had the gift of giving a little sunshine to everyone who met her."

Sarah Dunn, deputy head at Plymouth College where Miss Malone studied before attending university, described the student as "effervescent, sporty and extremely popular".

The college has set up a creative writing award in her memory.

Nearly £2,000 was raised at animal-lover Miss Malone's funeral, which was donated to her favourite charity, Woodside Animal Welfare Trust.