Study schedule found by body of Oxford student who committed suicide

 

The body of Sarah Napuk, the brilliant young Oxford student who took her own life, was found with the study schedule next to it, an inquest into her death was told yesterday. The 21-year-old student at Lady Margaret Hall was found hanged from a wardrobe in her room at the student lodgings by her Canadian-born fiance, Jason Russell.

Miss Napuk, who had been offered a Kennedy Scholarship to Harvard, suffered from acute depression triggered by what she perceived as "overwhelming pressure of work", the hearing at Oxford Town Hall was told. The coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, recorded a verdict of suicide.

Afterwards one of her closest friends maintained that Miss Napuk could have been saved if the university had offered an adequate safety-net to help students who were feeling the strain of academic expectations that came from being at Britain's best-known university.

Rebbeca Tuck, a law student at Lady Margaret Hall who had known Miss Napuk for three years, gave evidence at the inquest. Speaking outside the court, she stressed that other students were at risk because of the pressure.

Miss Tuck said: "Sarah is not the only one in that situation, there are lots and lots of others who cannot cope with the system. It is about time that Oxford came into the 21st century and thought about changing the examination system." Asked if Miss Napuk would have been saved with adequate counselling, she responded: "Most definitely. We know the counselling service is under-staffed and under-funded, but this is a very serious problem that the university needs to look at. I think with the right kind of support Sarah would have got the first everyone expected of her and she would be here now."

Earlier Miss Tuck had told the inquest that a university counsellor had advised Miss Napuk that she ought to be thinking about dropping out of Oxford. This happened two terms before her death.

PC Sean Clarke, from the Oxfordshire force, told the court that he had discovered a piece of A4 paper with a work schedule next to Miss Napuk's body. The death has opened a debate about the pressure Oxford undergraduates are put under. Her parents, Kerry and Angela Napuk, had publicly stated: "We are compelled to issue a health warning to other parents of potentially vulnerable and sensitive young people - don't sent your children to Oxford, it is not safe." They were denied permission by the coroner to send a statement to the court, and did not attend yesterday's hearing.

In 1993 the university carried out a study into suicides at the university under Keith Hawton. It concluded that the number of students killing themselves was "greater than would be expected on the basis of national rates for people in the 18-to-25 age group." Since 1990 12 students, including Miss Napuk, had killed themselves. The inquest had heard that Miss Napuk had suffered from depression in the past and had twice attempted to take her own life with overdoses. The last occasion was in March this year, three weeks before her death.

Professor Ernest Nicholson, the Chair of student health and Provost of Oriel, said: "Undoubtedly we do get these tragic combinations of undoubted academic excellence and too low self-esteem. There is no doubt that Sarah Napuk was very successful in her studies but for some reason she did suffer from feelings of inadequacy.

"We are not complacent at Oxford, the welfare of students take highest priority here. We do believe that we have got a wide counselling service, but we are always reviewing procedures to see how it can be improved.

"I note the criticism made by Mr and Mrs Napuk but we must accept that they are suffering from a huge amount of grief at the moment. What they are saying is bound to be somewhat influenced by that."

Mr Napuk, an American businessman, said: "It is very easy to write off what we have got to say by simply stating we are suffering from grief. What we want Oxford University to do is to take steps which should help prevent young people like my daughter taking their lives in the future.

"One of the first steps they can take is to bring in an outside view to see how matters can be improved. That is what we have been trying to suggest, but we have found their views, I'm afraid, rather arrogant and complacent."

Letters, page 17

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power