Pensioner found on beach penned two suicide notes

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A coroner has raised concerns about the mental health services given to a 89-year-old woman who drowned herself in the sea .

Barbara Smith, of Farmlands Way in Polegate, was found dead on the beach on December 1, 2012.

An inquest in to her death was held at Eastbourne Magistrates Court yesterday (April 18).

The elderly lady had been suffering from depression and had been referred to the mental health service on November 23. However, no action was taken until six days later when community psychiatric nurse Andrew Cable telephoned her on November 29 - just two days before her death.

Coroner Alan Craze said, “I am neutral and realise hindsight is a wonderful thing but I do have some concerns about the delay.”

There were no family members of Miss Smith’s at the inquest But Mr Craze said a concerned relative would ask why nothing was done sooner.

Mr Cable explained the GP had not marked Miss Smith as an urgent case.

Concerns about the 89-year-old’s mental health started when she sent a letter to her neighbour asking her to ‘pray for her soul’.

Miss Smith’s GP Dr Hammett made a home visit and she told him she had been feeling low but now regretted sending the letter.

However, a short while later, Miss Smith took her life. Her body was spotted at lunchtime on December 1 by Peter Walker who was strolling along the seafront with his wife and grandchildren.

Police found two notes, including one which talked about drowning near Eastbourne Pier, at Miss Smith’s address.

Mr Craze recorded a verdict of suicide while the balance of her mind was disturbed.

He added, “The notes make it abundantly clear she entered the water voluntarily.”