Inquest begins into death of Leeds University student

Katie Hamilton, 26, was studying at Leeds University.
Katie Hamilton, 26, was studying at Leeds University.

A Leeds University student took her life while she was an inpatient on a mental health unit in the city, an inquest heard today.

Katie Hamilton was in the final year of a philosophy and social policy degree when she was admitted to the Becklin Centre in Leeds on March 9, 2016.

Jurors at Wakefield Coroner’s Court heard the 26-year-old from Newcastle had already made three attempts on her life that week and was placed under observation every 15 minutes.

Despite this, she was found in her room with a ligature around her neck at 10.10pm that night.

Staff immediately began resuscitation efforts and Katie was taken to Leeds General Infirmary, where she died on March 12.

Pathologist Dr Kirsten Hope said the cause of death had been an irreversible hypoxic brain injury, caused by a lack of oxygen.

The court heard Katie had been diagnosed previously with borderline personality disorder and had been admitted to the Becklin Centre at least 22 times between 2011 and 2016.

After several years of unexplained collapses, she was also diagnosed in January 2016 with non epileptic attack disorder.

Katie’s mother, Emma Hamilton, said her daughter first began to experience issues with her mental health after winning a place at the Rambert ballet school in London when she was 16 and her symptoms worsened after she was raped at 17.

Her deteriorating mental health meant she left the school after two years, deciding instead to return to academic studies.

Although she had a long history of self-harm and previous suicide attempts, Mrs Hamilton said Katie had been determined to finish her university degree.

But a series of events in the week leading to March 9 appeared to have brought about a change in her outlook, which left her mother “even more terrified”.

“She was very different,” she told jurors. “It was like something had switched off.”

Mrs Hamilton said she had warned Becklin Centre staff that observations every 15 minutes were not sufficient, only to be told it would be reviewed the next morning.

Area coroner Jonathan Leach said the main issues for the inquest were likely to be the frequency of observations, whether Katie intended to take her life, and whether her death could reasonably have been prevented.

The evidence will focus on Katie's mental health background, the mental health care she received at the Becklin Centre, her state of mind while she was there, assessments into the risk of her self-harming and procedures for security, and the circumstances of her death.

The hearing is expected to last up to two weeks.

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