‘We feel so let down’ - Family of Horncastle dance legend Sonia Boddy consider legal action over her death

Pauline Boddy (left) with her daughter Sonia and granddaughters Jacqui and Ellie.
Pauline Boddy (left) with her daughter Sonia and granddaughters Jacqui and Ellie.

The grieving family of dance legend Sonia Boddy are considering taking legal action against two health authorities over her sudden death.

Sonia, who ran a successful Dance School in Horncastle for more than 20 years, died in Lincoln County Hospital last month, aged 51.

A horse drawn carriage leads the funeral parade from Dance 10 to St Mary's Church on Monday. Picture: John Aron.

A horse drawn carriage leads the funeral parade from Dance 10 to St Mary's Church on Monday. Picture: John Aron.

The mum of two was diagnosed with pancreatitis in September 2018.

A year later, Sonia was told she had pancreatic cancer which had spread to her liver and lymph nodes.

The family say they were told the cancer was no longer operable.

Sonia was admitted to hospital on a Tuesday, but her family believed she would be home later that week.

A special message for a very special woman. Picture: John Aron

A special message for a very special woman. Picture: John Aron

She died four days later (Saturday) with none of her family at her bedside.

The family is convinced that had the cancer being diagnosed earlier, Sonia would still be alive. Her mother, Pauline, told the News: “She had a wonderful life and she didn’t deserve to die like this.

“I’m absolutely certain they could have treated the cancer before it spread and she would still be alive. She put her trust in people and I believe they let her down.”

Sonia leaves behind two daughters – Jacqui (24) and Ellie (18).

Family and friends outside St Mary's Church - including Pauline and Jacqui. Picture: John Aron

Family and friends outside St Mary's Church - including Pauline and Jacqui. Picture: John Aron

According to her family, Sonia first sought medical treatment after feeling unwell. Pauline said: “She went to (Lincoln) hospital and was told she had pancreatitis.

“They didn’t scan her. They put her on painkillers and she carried on with her life.

“We all thought she would get better.”

Pauline says her daughter did have a scan four months later in the hope that a cyst - the cause of the pancreatitis - had shrunk.

It hadn’t, but Pauline says staff did not carry out a biopsy which may have revealed the cancer at that stage.

Sonia did return to Lincoln’s A&E department because she was in so much pain, but Pauline says she was given painkillers and sent home.

The family waited for another scan to be arranged.

Pauline explained: “We kept saying: ‘When are you going?’ and she kept saying ‘They will be in touch.’”

Sonia was given an appointment with a specialist in Nottingham.

Pauline added: “When we saw him, he said she looked extremely well.

“Sonia told him: ‘I feel like s***, I feel dreadful.”

Pauline says the specialist arranged for a CT scan in Nottingham.

Pauline went with her daughter for the scan, but didn’t see a doctor or a specialist at that appointment.

The family claim that they - and their local doctor - phoned Lincoln Hospital repeatedly over several days asking for the results.

Eventually, Pauline did speak to someone and told her she would be happy to pay for tests, including a biopsy.

Pauline says she was assured a biopsy would be carried out on the NHS and confirmation of a date would be sent within 10 days.

Again, the family had to wait.

Sonia’s condition worsened.

Pauline said: “ She was taking morphine every two hours but the pain would not go away.

Sonia was called in by the family doctor who told her she had cancer.

Pauline said: “She came home in tears. I asked her what was wrong and she just said – ‘Mum, it’s the worst possible news.”

Sonia was given an appointment to see the Nottingham specialist, in Lincoln.

Pauline recalls: “Sonia asked him if the cancer was operable.

“He nodded his head but then said ‘but it has spread to your liver and lymph nodes’.

“Sonia just said: ‘Basically, you are telling me I’m f*****.”

Sonia went home but saw her family doctor again and he immediately called an ambulance.

Pauline says the family understood Sonia would be discharged.

When they didn’t hear from anyone, they rang the hospital and were told a doctor wanted to see them.

Pauline added: “He told us Sonia’s condition had deteriorated and she needed palliative care and they wouldn’t resuscitate her.”

The family visited on the Thursday and Sonia was sitting up in bed, talking about the songs and dances she planned to include in a special show next year to celebrate her 20th anniversary of teaching.

They returned the following day and this time, Sonia told them she’d love a glass of Prosecco.

Pauline and Sonia’s daughters planned to visit again the following afternoon (Saturday).

Pauline added: “I got a call at just after 9.30 to say they’d checked Sonia at 9am and she was ok.

“They gave her medication at 9.15 but when they checked again at 9.20, she was dead. She’d gone.”

The family has struggled to come to terms with what happened.

Pauline said: “We did see a doctor at Lincoln and he was livid.

“He said there would be an investigation and that it could have been prevented.

“But we’ve not heard anything.

“We just keep asking why? Why did this happen? Why was it allowed to go on for so long?

“We don’t understand.”

“We have spoken to a solicitor and we are deciding what to do next.”

• In a joint statement, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We offer our condolences to the family of Sonia Boddy and, together, we will fully examine any concerns the family may have about the care that Sonia received at our hospitals. We are happy to meet with them to discuss their concerns.”

The family remember Sonia

‘She had a wonderful life....and she definitely lived it to the full!’

That is how Pauline Boddy describes her daughter, and Horncastle dance legend, Sonia Boddy.

Born in Louth, Sonia went on to ‘dance her way around the world’ – meeting a host of stars in the process – from Sylvester Stallone to Gene Kelly.

However, the 52-year-old always regarded Horncastle as her home.

She attended the town’s Banovallum Secondary School and Pauline says: “From a very young age, she wanted to be a dancer.

“I remember she once told her careers teacher that she was going to be a professional dancer.

“The teacher told Sonia to get her feet back on the ground, and there were always lots of jobs at factories in town!”

Sonia blossomed after linking up with dance teacher Christine Orange in Lincoln.

At the age of 16, Pauline and her then husband David decided to take Sonia for an audition at a leading ballet school in London.

Such was the level of competition, more than 3,500 hopefuls from all over the world were chasing a dozen places .

Pauline says: “We had to wait in the foyer and then the Principal walked in and said she wanted to see us .

“I’ve got to admit I just thought ‘What has she done wrong now/’ She was always a a tyrant...a bit cheeky. That’s how she was.”

Sonia thrived in London, even though she only received £10-a-week pocket money when many of her fellow pupils received £100.

During a Christmas holiday, Pauline decided to phone the famous Paris Lido in an attempt to get Sonia an audition with the world renowned Bluebell dance troupe.

Pauline says: “I didn’t speak French but somehow I managed to get through to someone.

“We were told to send off a couple of photos and a CV.

“We got a letter from Bluebell herself, inviting Sonia to audition.”

That audition didn’t exactly go to plan. When Sonia attempted a high-kick, she slipped and fell on her backside.

Pauline said: “Sonia just sat there and laughed. Fortunately, Miss Bluebell told her it wasn’t just about dancing. She wanted girls with a sense of humour.”

Sonia was one of only 17 girls taken on, and eventually Miss Bluebell kept just three girls on....Sonia was one of them.

For the next two years, Sonia lapped up the Parisian lifestyle, meeting the likes of Tom Jones, Gene Kelly and Shirley MacLaine.

Pauline says: “She rang me up one night and said: ‘Mum, mum, do you know who Pele is?’

“I said : ‘Of course, he’s a footballer.

“Sonia then said: ‘He’s just kissed my hand!”

Pauline says the girls were so well looked after, safety was never a concern.

Sonia went on to dance in shows all over the world, and appeared on stage in the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen.

Sonia then moved on to Tenerife where she opened and ran a very successful dance academy, and turned down a chance to join the Moulin Rouge.

Her final move was back to her beloved Horncastle.

Over the last 20 years, Sonia taught hundreds of youngsters to dance and her superbly staged shows were a highlight of the town’s entertainment calendar.

Even when she was ill, Sonia carried on teaching.

“She loved it,” said Pauline.

And, it seems certain her legacy will live on.

Daughter Jacqui (24) is already running the dance school, returning with partner Jack from a successful career herself in Tenerife.

And youngest daughter Ellie (18) is a student in Lincoln, studying drama. She could teach at the school, once qualified

Pauline adds: “We’ve kept the dance school open and we’ve had several newcomers sign up. Everyone in Horncastle has been really supportive. It’s been fantastic.

And, as Pauline herself says: “The show will go on!”