High-achieving Cambridge University student from Gateshead took her own life in college bedroom

Erin Cresswell, from Gateshead, was a student at Cambridge University when she took her own life. Credit: ITV Anglia

A high-achieving student who had struggled with her mental health for years took her own life in her college room, an inquest has heard.

Erin Cresswell, from Gateshead, did "exceptionally well in her first year" reading natural sciences at Cambridge University and "came in the top 15%", a coroner said.

But the 20-year-old's mother said that Erin "didn't know why people bothered with her" and that her daughter "didn't value her life very much".

Erin's parents, Kevin and Heather Cresswell, wiped tears from their eyes at a hearing in Peterborough on Thursday 26 January.

Mrs Cresswell contacted Jesus College, where Erin studied, on 9 May last year after her daughter did not respond to messages over the weekend, and she was found unresponsive on her bathroom floor by a porter.

Simon Milburn, area coroner for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said that while Erin's death was confirmed at 11:03am on 9 May, it was "likely on the evidence Erin had sadly been dead for some time before that".

Mr Milburn concluded that she died by suicide.

Detective Inspector Lindsay Harbour said, in evidence summarised by the coroner, that CCTV footage of Erin entering a staircase to her room on Saturday 7 May showed her in apparent good spirits.

The officer said that the last entry in her exercise diary, on Friday 6 May, described a workout in "small and neat, fairly distinctive" handwriting.

The officer also found a suicide note addressed to her family.

The coroner said fellow students described Erin as "quiet, kept herself to herself".

He said she "was considered to be a model student who worked hard, went to the gym and although she was quiet, was clearly well-liked by all who spoke to her".

Her mother said, in a statement read by the coroner, that the "bottom dropped out of Erin's life" when she was dropped by a friendship group in Year 10, and she developed an eating disorder.

She said Erin later "threw herself into" going to the gym "with the aim of getting strength and not weight loss".

Mrs Cresswell said that her daughter was "happy here in Cambridge".

"She met nothing but kind people," she said.

"She said she didn't know why people bothered with her as she had nothing to say and it was just in pity."

She added that Erin "unfortunately couldn't let anyone into what was in her head", adding: "We're aware she didn't value her life very much."

"It wasn't something we were expecting," she said.

"We were keeping a close eye on her but we didn't feel this was something that could happen."

Mrs Cresswell continued: "I wish she could have realised how loved she was.

"I suppose that now in Erin's head she's at peace."

She said that Erin had cognitive behavioural therapy in 2016.

She had also self-referred to South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in May 2020, and had three counselling sessions at Cambridge University in August and September 2021, where her risk was assessed as low.

The coroner said that Erin "had problems going back a number of years, problems initiated or at least exacerbated to a significant degree by that one event at school".

Mr Milburn added: "Despite those struggles that she went through, the inherent shyness, the lack of self-worth, there was clearly no indication she was thinking about taking her own life at any stage.

He said there was "one occasion with a counsellor where she expressed some thoughts about not being here but that seems to be isolated and not repeated".

Mr Milburn said that in notes in her room, Erin detailed a previous occasion where she planned to kill herself but "hadn't gone through with it".

Recording that Erin died by suicide, Mr Milburn said: "Erin had struggled with her mental health over a number of years and had also left notes indicating that she was contemplating taking her life, but had never made those comments to those who were close to her."

Sonita Alleyne, Master of Jesus College, said afterwards: "Erin was kind, well-liked and an exceptional student who enjoyed her studies and had a supportive group of close friends.

"Her loss devastated our college community and our thoughts remain with her family and friends."

It was one of the biggest news stories of our time - and it's still not over. So what did Boris Johnson know about Downing Street’s notorious parties? With fresh revelations from our Number 10 sources, in their own words, listen to the inside story...