Coroner’s concerns after park hanging

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A woman was assessed as being at low risk of harming herself, just hours before she took her own life in Tilgate Park, an inquest heard.

Wanda Stachurska, 51, of Warnham Road, Furnace Green, was found hanging in Tilgate Park on November 18 last year.

An inquest heard on Wednesday (May 20)that she had been taken to hospital after attempting to kill herself on November 16. Important information about Mrs Stachurska’s case was not given to the mental health nurse who assessed her for release.

Her handbag, which contained a large sum of cash, went missing at some point and was never recovered.

Susan Dhiman told the inquest she had been walking her dog in Bewbush on November 16 when she saw Mrs Stachurska, who was trying to hang herself from a bridge.

She said Mrs Stachurska was soaked from head to foot, although the brook running under the bridge was only shallow, suggesting that she had fallen in at some point. An ambulance crew took her to East Surrey Hospital, where she was treated for hypothermia.

Dr Benjamin Upton told the inquest that Mrs Stachurska had told him that she had been trying to kill herself, and had taken about 30 sleeping tablets previously. He told her that she needed to stay in hospital until a psychiatric evaluation could be carried out.

Jennie Mumford, who conducted the evaluation, told the inquest that she was never informed that her patient had tried to hang herself.

She spoke to Mrs Stachurska, a native Polish speaker, with the help of a hospital security staff member who was from Poland. While talking to her, she said, Mrs Stachurska insisted that she had no future plans to harm herself, and played down her overdose attempt by claiming she had taken just five tablets to help her sleep. She said Mrs Stachurska was ‘guarded’ with some of her replies, but had seemed calm, relaxed and co-operative throughout.

West Sussex assistant coroner Bridget Dolan recorded that Mrs Stachurska had taken her own life. She noted that Mrs Stachurska had recently lost her job and was going through the stress of moving house.

Mrs Dolan said she would formally contact Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs East Surrey Hospital, and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides mental health services. She said she would advise against using staff members as interpreters, and would point out that both trusts should have carried out internal investigations at once.

Waiting for the inquest before investigating ‘is to turn the system on its head’, she said. “I still can’t understand why a serious incident review hasn’t been done.”