‘Beautiful, caring’ woman falls from Beachy Head after health deterioration

A ‘beautiful, caring’ woman, who believed she had numerous health problems and felt medical professionals were not taking her seriously, fell from Beachy Head.

Friday, 15th November 2019, 1:15 pm
Lynette Bonell
Lynette Bonell

Lynette Bonell, 50, from Eastbourne, died on March 12 after seven months of medical issues saw her prescribed a number of prescription drugs, which the family and the woman believe brought about side effects, an inquest at Eastbourne heard today (Thursday).

Darren Peirce, Ms Bonell’s partner, said in a statement, “Our love for one another kept us going. In the end our love was not enough.

“In Autumn 2006 we began a relationship and we both described it as the best decision we ever made. She had the most amazing, bubbly, infectious personality. She wanted to see it all, do it all, and she did.

“We had a dream holiday to Bali booked for October. Lynette was well-liked and had a huge variety of friends. I sacrificed and devoted everything for her and believed what she was telling me.”

Pam and David Cradduck, Ms Bonell’s parents, said in a statement, “We have lost the most precious possession in our life. We saw Lynette on a regular basis when she was working and well. She had a bubbly personality and tried to piece 36 hours into a 24 hour day. She had a huge selection of friends. More than 300 people attended her funeral.”

Ms Bonell’s mother said in a statement, “I often went out with her on a Saturday morning. The last time, we sat in the sun and she told me about her ‘best summer ever’ she said, ‘Mum, I have got it all’.”

Mr Peirce told the inquest how Ms Bonell first experienced ‘facial pain’, coming from her tooth, in August and had gone to three separate doctors who told her ‘there was nothing going on to explain the amount of pain she was experiencing’.

Ms Bonell’s partner said, “A dentist said taking the tooth out would change Lynette’s life forever, but problems kept on coming. Lynette downloaded an app called ‘Headspace’. She was listening to it frequently for hours at a time. I believe it confused her. She thought she was breathing incorrectly. She began to believe if she went to sleep she would stop breathing.”

Mr Peirce told the inquest the mental health crisis team were contacted after his partner started having issues including speaking at ‘one hundred miles per hour’, ‘staring’, feeling as if she was being ‘pulled back while walking’ and seeing ‘flashing lights’ in her right eye.

Mr Peirce said, “The recommendation was to go on to a combination of drugs. The crisis team did visit every day but the problem was a different member came every time. This meant she had to keep repeating her symptoms to them and she got different opinions.

“She felt no one was listening to her and the doctors just wanted to ply her with medication. I think at this point as a family we were losing faith in the mental health team.”

Mr Peirce told the inquest Ms Bonell went for emergency eye surgery which ‘saved her eye’ and she felt the doctors ‘did not understand her’ after she felt she proved they failed to notice the issue.

The inquest heard Ms Bonnell started to suffer from ‘motion sickness’, ‘feeling her body was being rocked from side to side’ and how it was ‘unrelenting, causing her not to sleep and feeling sick constantly’.

Ms Bonell began to self-diagnose on the internet, the inquest heard, and came to the conclusion she had Mal de Débarquement Syndrome (MDDS) - a neurological disorder that leaves patients feeling as if they are rocking and swaying, according to the MDDS foundation.

Mr Peirce said, “She read there was no cure for MDDS and that people with the syndrome take their own life. I never thought for one moment she was considering it until the next morning.”

In December, Ms Bonell was found at Beachy Head but the work of the chaplaincy team saw her return home.

Mr Peirce said, “I was in shock but grateful she was alive. I was informed she would be admitted to the psychiatric ward. She said she never would have done it because she was too scared. I believe it was a cry for help. She believed if she was admitted to hospital the doctors would be accessible every day and make her better.

Mr Peirce told the inquest his partner would often be left alone in isolation for 24 hours a day in the Amberley Ward at the DGH and compared it to a prison.

He said, “Within 24 hours of being admitted, she became scared, frightened and concerned under her new surroundings. She felt no one was taking her seriously. We as a family started providing around the clock care for her. After six weeks on Amberley she had had enough. It was extremely distressing for her in the ward.

“Amberley staff were not listening to her and not helping her. As much as she hated being in there, she just wanted to get better.”

Ms Bonell was released in January and travelled up to Sheffield to visit an MDDS specialist. The inquest heard Mr Peirce and Ms Bonell agreed this would be the final ruling on the illness and they will support whichever decision that is made by the doctor.

However, the diagnosis from the specialist was that Ms Bonell was not suffering from MDSS. Mr Peirce said Ms Bonell was disappointed with the outcome. He said, “It was just another person who did not believe her.”

On the day of Ms Bonell’s death Mr Peirce said he returned back from work to see the car was missing from the drive. He said, “I drove at speed to Beachy Head. I feared what she had done.

“She did not believe she could get better.”

Paul Biden, a serious incident senior mental health officer, said, “Lessons we need to learn in this instance is when we see this rapid and debilitating onset with a condition where there are psychotic factors and there is a traumatic change in somebody’s level of functioning and quality of life we need to think again how we continue engagement with individuals in a meaningful way.

“The risk management in this case was of a good standard despite this tragic outcome.”

Mr Biden offered the family a personal independent meeting with the mental health team where the family will participate in a constructive discussion to prevent a situation like this from occurring again.

Coroner Alan Craze recorded a conclusion of suicide. The coroner said, “This was an illness she could never be cured from, only managed. It was always going to be there.”