Inquest into young woman’s death on Chichester street

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An inquest was held yesterday into the death of a ‘lively and bubbly’ young woman from Chichester ‘who touched the lives of many’.

Harriet Penelope Henry, known as Penny to her friends, left home ‘happy and excited’ to go to a fancy dress party with friends the night before she died in October last year, Crawley Coroners Court heard on Monday.

The court heard Harriet, 28, of Sloe Close, who had been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, was found on the morning of October 29 having hanged herself in Baffins Court, Chichester.

Her family told the court she had a ‘volatile’ relationship with her boyfriend, Joshua Mercier, who confirmed the pair had had an argument in the early hours of October 29 before Harriet walked off onto the street, saying she was leaving him, which he said had happened before.

In a statement, Mr Mercier said he left the door on the latch, assuming Harriet would calm down.

“It didn’t seem out of the ordinary in the slightest and certainly didn’t really ring any alarm bells,” he said.

“At 6.09 I got a message saying ‘goodbye’, I did immediately ring her and left a message.

“I thought based on previous experience she’d either get in touch once she’d calmed down or come in the next morning.”

The inquest heard Harriet was known to have self-harmed as a teenager and police had been called to assist her on three previous occasions when she was in a distressed state. She was also admitted to A&E and referred to the mental health services by her GP.

Her mother Barbara Stewart-Newell said she should have been informed of the police involvement and emergency admissions as her daughter’s primary care giver but mental health practitioners said Harriet had not given written consent to share that information.

She described her daughter as ‘lively and bubbly’ and an emotional person who always wanted to help other people.

Assistant coroner for West Sussex Elizabeth Bussey-Jones noted that although Harriet had been drinking that night, she would still have been able to think clearly and took her own life in ‘a low and very distressed state’.

She said: “It’s a tragic, tragic loss at a very young age of clearly a very beautiful lady who touched the lives of so many.”

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

See www.samaritans.org