Coroner unable to rule mum-of-two's death a suicide

James Harrison

A severely depressed mum-of-two who died after attempting to hang herself did not commit suicide, an inquest concluded.

Sarah Wakeford, of Lower Cookham Road, Maidenhead, was found on the floor of her mother’s home in Hurley with a cord tied around her neck on January 25.

The 61-year-old, who had been released from Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital just days before after taking an overdose, later died at the same hospital on January 29.

However, Peter Bedford, the senior coroner for Berkshire, said he could not be sure whether her actions were a genuine attempt to take her life or a cry for help due to the presence of both Miss Wakeford’s mother and her mother’s carer in the property at the time.

“Where I struggle is that I have no doubt Miss Wakeford tied the ligature, but why would she do it when there were two other people in the house?” he said.

“Would she not have shut the door to make sure no one heard any strange noises?

“Then would it fall into a cry for help or hope for intervention?

“It does not seem to fit the criteria [of suicide] for these reasons.”

The inquest proceedings, which were held at Reading Town Hall on Thursday, heard evidence from her GP, Dr Rory Symons, who had been treating Miss Wakeford for more than 10 years.

And Mr Bedford noted from this there had been a clear deterioration in her mental health from October 2016, which also included financial worries and the stress of caring for her mother, who has dementia.

On January 22 she was treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital for an overdose but discharged following an assessment at about 1am the next day.

Although carried out by a mental health professional, this was not a full mental health assessment which, according to Mr Bedford is a ‘very different animal’ requiring ‘a more structured approach’.

Following this process, during which Miss Wakeford’s GP records detailing her previous treatment for depression were not accessed, she was found to be of low risk and discharged.

Mr Bedford however found no fault with this procedure, stating that her experience of mental health treatment meant she was ‘able to present herself as she wanted others to see her’.

He concluded the inquest by ruling ‘Miss Wakeford died as a result of her own actions while suffering from depression, but without the required standard of proof of suicidal intent’.

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