A former British Library manager who jumped to her death from a rooftop City restaurant was the victim of a Facebook stalker who exposed her westernised lifestyle to her strict Muslim parents, an inquest heard today.
Rema Begum, 29, was diagnosed with depression after losing her job following a row with library bosses last Christmas. Her health deteriorated and the once “bubbly life and soul of the party” was unable to leave the house because an internet stalker launched a hate campaign exposing her liberal lifestyle.
City of London Coroner’s Court heard Miss Begum began to fear she was living an impure life and told friends she was worried she would not go to paradise after her death.
On 4 September this year Miss Begum went to Coq d’Argent where she ordered a glass of wine on the terrace of the restaurant. She then leapt to her death. A post-mortem revealed she was not drunk.
Police found anti-depressants, a small bottle of rose, a bottle of vodka and a note containing contact details for her next of kin and her address in her handbag.
In the days before her death, Miss Begum, who lived alone in Islington, confided in a friend how she was “struggling” to reconcile her Muslim faith and her lifestyle. Avril Atkins told the court an internet stalker had used information from her Facebook profile to send hate mail to her and her parents. Miss Begum was so distressed she contacted the police.
Ms Atkins, who works in human resources, said: “Somebody had been sending letters to her parents about her lifestyle and her relationships and she believed they gained access to that information from Facebook.” Miss Begum, who had a masters degree, subsequently closed her Facebook account and opened a new one under another name.
Her depression began after her contract was terminated following of a clash with her bosses last Christmas, the inquest heard. Miss Begum had also been grieving for a relative. Ms Atkins said: “Towards the end she was having issues with one of her managers. It was causing her a lot of stress.”
Miss Begum also told her psychiatrist that she felt “guilty” for not living her life “according to her family values and religion”, and felt she would be “punished for leading a bad life”.
The inquest heard she had previously tried to take her own life and had to be saved by her parents.
Ms Atkins said her friend was a “very happy, cheerful, up kind of person”, but in the days before her death she had become increasingly reclusive. She was prescribed anti-depressants, underwent therapy and was under the care of a community mental health team.
In a long phone conversation shortly before she died, Ms Begum confided in Ms Atkins, who told the coroner: “She said she wasn’t living a good Muslim life and wasn’t going to paradise. I said there was nothing wrong with way she was living her life and her family should be proud of her.”
Miss Begum’s parents, Abdul and Rufia Hakim, did not attend the inquest.
The coroner, Paul Matthews, returning a verdict of suicide, said there was “no doubt” Miss Begum was suffering from depression. It was clear she went to Coq d’Argent with the intention of taking “action”, he added, and they were “not the actions of something gone horribly wrong”.
Four people, including Miss Begum, have jumped to their death from Coq d’Argent since 2007.