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Mother tells inquest how her daughter started self-harming due to 'body issues'

Charlotte Baron Photo: MEN Syndication

A teenage girl found hanged in her bedroom had a history of self-harming and had attempted to take her own life just a few months earlier, an inquest heard.

Charlotte Baron, 14, died at Royal Oldham Hospital last year. An inquest into her death, which began in Heywood on Monday, heard Charlotte was found by her brother Tylor at their home in Heights Lane, Falinge, Rochdale, about 8.30pm on February 20. In a statement Tylor said he was looking for his mobile phone charger when he heard music coming from Charlotte’s bedroom and assumed she was using it. He went into her room and found her lifeless body, before running downstairs to tell mum Veronica Kilbride, who was sleeping on the sofa. Tylor called 999 and both he and Ms Kilbride attempted to perform CPR on Charlotte. She was taken to hospital, but was pronounced dead a short time after arrival. Ms Kilbride, who is known as Marie, told the inquest Charlotte had begun self-harming aged 12, when she began cutting her arms due to ‘body issues’. Charlotte, a pupil at St Cuthbert’s High School in Rochdale, who was described as a popular girl who had lots of friends, sought help from her grandmother Maureen Henry, who had also battled with self-harming and to whom she was close.

Ms Kilbride said she believed that Charlotte had stopped cutting herself after speaking with her grandma but learnt following her daughter’s death that she had continued to self-harm. The inquest also heard that in September 2015 Charlotte was hospitalised after taking an overdose of paracetamol at home in a suicide attempt. Following the incident social services and mental health workers from Rochdale council and Pennine Care NHS Trust were assigned to her. In December 2015 Charlotte’s grandma, who had battled cancer for 15 years, was told her condition was terminal and was taken into a hospice. Later that month Charlotte was found unconscious in a field close to her home after smoking cannabis and drinking heavily, the inquest heard. She was again taken to hospital where she was kept in overnight. Fighting back the tears, Ms Kilbride told the inquest she didn’t realise it at the time, but now believes this was a ‘cry for help’ from her daughter and spoke of her regret at not having ‘seen it’.

Det Insp Andrew Butterworth investigated Charlotte’s death. He told the inquest Charlotte kept a ‘drawing diary’ and that on the first page there was a picture of a hand with self-harming scars on the arm. Det Insp Butterworth also read out an entry on page three dated December 30, the day after Charlotte was taken to hospital after drinking excessively, which said: “So today is December 30, tomorrow is New Year’s Eve. Yesterday I over-drank. I almost died. I just wanted to forget everything. I just do not want to go on. I was just so f***ing close, but, no, they had to save me. Why? I do not want to be here. Why won’t they let me die?” The inquest heard that single mother-of-five Ms Kilbride, who was her mum’s main carer during her illness, had battled a drink problem, and had been drinking heavily in the weeks and months before Charlotte’s death. Christina Senior, a family support worker from Rochdale council, was one of a number of healthcare professionals who were assigned to the family following Charlotte’s suicide attempt.

She told the inquest social services had concerns about several issues including Charlotte’s mental health, the fact the family had moved home numerous times in recent years, conditions at home and Ms Kilbride’s drinking. Ms Senior visited both the family home and Mrs Henry’s home and also had a number of one-to-one meetings with Charlotte before her death. She said Charlotte was considered to be at ‘high risk’ of suicide and concerns were raised about her ‘low mood’.

Ms Senior also added that due to a ‘deterioration’ in conditions at home in the weeks before Charlotte’s death social workers were considered ‘escalating’ the case to child protection services. Senior Coroner Joanne Kearsley told the jury of seven men and four women the inquest is expected to last for seven days.