‘Mixed up’ teenager ‘left to fend for herself’ before suicide at age of 19

Assistant coroner at Bradford Coroner’s Court heard how Calderdale College student Courtney Lonsdale studied Childcare Studies and dreamt of going to university

Kate Reilly and her beloved daughter Courtney Lonsdale

A heartbroken mum has spoken of her devastation after hearing about her teenage daughter’s final days at an inquest.

Kate Reilly, a 38-year-old mum-of-four, spoke out after the virtual inquest into the death of 19-year-old Courtney Lonsdale.

Assistant coroner at Bradford Coroner’s Court Oliver Longstaff heard how the Calderdale College student studied Childcare Studies and dreamt of going to university.

But tragically she was found dead at her flat in Ovenden, Halifax, on March 2 last year, Yorkshire Live reports.

Police officers explained how they had gone to her home on that afternoon after being told of concerns for her welfare – having not been seen for a couple of days – and found Courtney’s body along with handwritten suicide notes.

The court heard how Miss Reilly, who now lives in Morecambe, had Courtney when she was 16. She was in a relationship where she was the victim of domestic violence and was forced in 2010 to give up her three children into foster care to protect them.

The case was heard at Bradford Magistrate’s Coroner’s Court


Benjamin Paul

Miss Reilly, who said she was from a ‘travelling family’, claimed that Courtney had suffered mental and physical abuse while in foster care.

She said her children were placed with “middle-class folk” who they could not identify with and whose first action had been to cut her two daughter’s very long hair into more easy-to-manage bobs.

Miss Reilly said Courtney was “a mixed-up, confused little girl with a mental age of 12” and had been given a flat aged 17 and left alone with financial worries and was behind with her rent.

She told the hearing: “I’m terribly disappointed in the system. I will leave no stone unturned to get justice for my daughter, Courtney.”

The court heard a friend of the deceased, Rhys Barratt, had seen messages on her Snapchat saying that “she didn’t want to be here anymore”.

Dr Sohail Ahmed, Courtney’s GP of Woodside Surgery, Halifax, said Courtney had been diagnosed with depression in January 2019 and had previously tried to take her own life.

The court heard further evidence from Ms Hughes, a mental health practitioner with South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust that Courtney had a history of self-harm since 2013 that involved cutting herself and at one point had to be restrained by a police officer from jumping off a roof.

Ms Hughes, who is now retired, said: “She felt overwhelmed by her problems.”

Susan Holden who worked for Prospect, a company commissioned by Calderdale Council to provide support for young people up to the age of 25 through the Pathway programme, said she had become known to the care team in May 2017 when she was 16.

Staff visited Courtney several times in 2019 with the last visit being in February 2020.

Mr Longstaff said: “The court has heard something of the concerns that her mother has for Courtney’s stay in foster care when she was a child.

“These are not concerns that I am in a position to investigate because in terms of the chronology of Courtney’s life the issues referred to by Miss Reilly and Courtney, herself, predate March 2020 by some time.

“I think it’s important to record that the act that Courtney took is different in nature from the previous incidents of self-harm, cutting herself, and the two occasions of an overdose in December 2019.

“In my mind, there are strong indicators that she intended the consequences. She was discovered alone in a flat and there was no third-party involvement.

“It’s also important that I refer to notes recovered from the scene.

“I can say this much that having read them they are indicative of upset on Courtney’s part at the progress or lack of progress in a relationship and it makes for very moving reading.”

His conclusion was that she took her own life.

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