Haddenham woman could have been sectioned night before death, coroner says

A HADDENHAM woman who killed herself on the A1 near St Neots could have been sectioned the night before, an inquest heard on Thursday.

Sarah Hillingdon died on March 27 this year on the southbound carriageway at Southoe. She had run out of a lay-by into the path of an oncoming lorry.

Coroner David Morris, sitting at Lawrence Court in Huntingdon, heard from a number of witnesses that Miss Hillingdon had been suffering from “depression of moderate severity” and had been prone to hearing voices. She had also been struggling with difficulties with a colleague at work. The evening before her death, her partner Kevin Smith, who lived with her in Glebe Way, in Haddenham, called 999 because her condition had deteriorated.

Officers and paramedics who attended the house did not have the legal power to section Miss Hillingdon and called an out-of-hours doctor from the Princess of Wales Hospital in Ely who would be able to start sectioning proceedings.

However, despite their concerns, Dr Arthur decided Miss Hillingdon did not need to be sectioned and told her to see her GP in the morning. Less than 10 hours later, Miss Hillingdon was dead.

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Dr Arthur said the ambulance crew gave him their opinion that she should be sectioned and told Mr Morris: “Their judgement probably turned out to be more accurate than mine… I will be more risk averse in the future.

“Since then, I really do feel that I let her down. I think I should have been better at my job.”

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Mr Morris accepted that it was a difficult decision and told Dr Arthur: “It was a difficult call to make in any event.”

He added, summing up: “This lady appeared to have calmed down, that was the evidence of her partner, the police and the ambulance service and on the face of it she seemed to be settling down.”

He said that even if Dr Arthur had commenced proceedings, which can taken between four and 12 hours to complete, “there was nothing to say she would have found another way of leaving the property” and “above all else she was an adult, with the capacity to make decisions and in some respects had an entitlement to go off and take her own life”.

Mr Morris recorded a verdict that Miss Hillingdon took her own life while suffering an acute episode of her depressive illness, “the immediacy of her illness had not been fully recognised”.

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