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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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Rescuers tried to save woman who jumped off pier to end her life

A depressed mother killed herself by jumping off a pier, an inquest heard.

Sheena Norman, 42, was seen leaping into “rough’’ sea on January 23 by stunned onlookers who subsequently tried to rescue her.

However, she died despite being pulled from the water by an off-duty community police officer and receiving ‘’sustained and vigorous’’ resuscitation efforts.

The inquest, at West Cumbria Courthouse, heard how Mrs Norman had been ‘’distressed ‘’ believing she had inherited Huntington’s Disease, a neurodegenerative genetic disorder, which had also affected her brother and late mother.

A post mortem stated Mrs Norman’s cause of death to be drowning. A toxicology report revealed she had not been drinking alcohol and was taking anti-depressant medication. Coroner David Roberts recorded a verdict of suicide.

Witness Alan Wren was sitting in his car near Whitehaven pier on the afternoon of January 23 when he saw Mrs Norman.

“She was looking over the pier wall. She then jumped out away from the pier, disappearing from sight.’’ he said.

When he rushed over to see what had happened he saw her “swimming about four to five feet away from the pier wall, swimming towards the shore.’’

Mr Wren said he told her to “keep going’’ and sent another witness to get a lifebelt which was thrown towards Mrs Norman. However, he said: “She never attempted to go for it.’’

He then saw her hold her arms up in the air and go under the water. “When she came to the surface, her face was down. She just seemed to give up.’’

Another witness, Mike Mcquillam, was approached by Mr Wren to say Mrs Norman had jumped in the sea.

Mr Mcquillam threw the lifebelt but it landed about eight feet away. “I told her to get on her back because the tide would bring her in and she did.’’

Mr Mcquillam said Mrs Norman then put her hands up and went under the water. He told the inquest he thought she was “actively trying to save herself’’.

Another witness, Christopher Iseton, told the inquest he hadn’t seen Mrs Norman “actively swimming” and “she made no reaction towards the lifebelt’’.

Off-duty PCSO Jonathan Mann wore a rope line which he used to wade out to Mrs Norman and, with another colleague, brought her to shore.

PSCO Mann told the inquest he and his colleagues tried CPR on Mrs Norman but she was “unresponsive’’.

The inquest also heard from George Finn, who lived near Mrs Norman.

He said he met Mrs Norman in November 2011 when she had passed his house sobbing. “She told me she had Huntington’s Disease but she hadn’t taken a test.”

Mr Finn told the inquest he had seen Mrs Norman on the day she died.

He said: “She was talking about topping herself.’’

Mrs Norman’s husband, Russell Norman, of Grizedale Close, told the inquest his wife was a “very private and caring person... a protective mother’’.

Over the previous 12 months she had became depressed having “really bad days’’. He said she was convinced she was starting with Huntington’s Disease.

She had an appointment to be tested but she received the letter acknowledging this after the date of the appointment. A new appointment was made for March.

Mr Norman told the inquest that in the week before his wife took her life “every day was a downer, a bad day.’’ However, her death had “came out of the blue.’’

He thanked each witness for the support they had shown Mrs Norman.

Summing up, Mr Roberts said it was “heartening to see so many people acting so quickly and with each other’’ to help Mrs Norman and “collectively they should be commended for their assistance’’.

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