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GP found on fire had been trying to burn partially injured arm so she could get skin graft

A GP who died after being found on fire in her garden had been trying to burn her partially injured arm to persuade doctors to give her a skin graft, an inquest heard today.

Despite being a medic Dr Julia Cross - found ablaze at her home in April - had a history of self-harm but had been making plans for the future.

Neighbours heard screams for help coming from the property at around 1am, where they discovered the burning woman next to a hose, which was also on fire.

Fire crews put out the flames which were engulfing the 36-year-old and she was taken to hospital but later died of her injuries.

The single mother had suffered shocking 95 per cent burns in the incident at her home in Littlehampton, West Sussex.

An inquest in Worthing heard that the GP had struggled with depression and self-harm since she was young and had attempted suicide in her teens.

In recent months she had deliberately burned herself on her left arm, in an attempt to get a skin graft on areas of her body scarred from years of cutting herself.

Medical staff had told her she would not be given a graft until she had stopped self-harming.

The night before her death Dr Cross had returned to her own home to spend the night, as she had been taken in by her sister in recent weeks.

Her sister, Alexandra Peck, visited and was assured the doctor she would not do "anything silly," and was planning to do some filing.

She said: "Everything basically suggested she was going to do what she said she was going to do.

"She was really happy - she'd had a really good day."

The coroner said Dr Cross had left a lengthy four-page note, the contents of which were not read to the inquest but which did not appear to indicate suicide.

She detailed her intention to burn her arm but wrote "if I don't survive...," suggesting she did not plan to kill herself.

Her father David said his daughter had bought food, wrapped Easter presents and left to-do lists before her death.

The inquest heard how much Dr Cross loved her seven-year-old son Oliver, but had sometimes struggled with his care due to her depression.

Mr Cross said: "With the depression she felt she couldn't do anything. I think she felt she should have been doing things with her son that she wasn't able to do."

Dr Cross was a partner at The Barn Surgery in Ferring, near Worthing, but had been on leave due to her mental illness.

Her father said she had been looking forward to getting back to work once she was well again.

Mrs Peck said her sister had been showing signs of improvement at the start of April while she was staying with her but had been disappointed that a hospital appointment the day before her death had not mentioned future skin grafting.

The sisters had made plans to take their children to Gaston Farm in Arundel, West Sussex, on April 16, the day Dr Cross died.

The post mortem examination gave her cause of death at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton as thermal injuries. Alcohol and tramadol were found in her bloodstream.

Recording an accidental death verdict, assistant coroner Michael Kendall said: "This is a very sad case. She had a history of a long period of self harm but no evidence of any intent to take her own life.

"It seems to me the note is of great importance.

"Her intention was to burn her arm to dull the pain and possibly to get a skin graft.

"She clearly intended to do the act she did but had no intention to take her own life."