Woman found dead by Kensington Gardens pond suffered hypothermia

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A young woman recovering from anorexia froze to death next to an iced-over pond after suffering hypothermia, an inquest heard today.

The body of charity projects manager Jessie Stafford, 29, was discovered by a passer-by close to the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, central London on the morning of January 15, this year.

She was found with dry hair, but wet clothing and her coat was next to her despite the cold conditions.

The hearing at Westminster Coroner's Court was told Ms Stafford, who was single and lived with her parents in Notting Hill, had been receiving treatment for anorexia and depression since early 2009.

In a statement read out at the inquest, her GP Dr Simon Ramsden of Pembridge Villas Surgery said her father had expressed his worries in June last year about her eating.

She was briefly admitted for help, before being discharged prior to Christmas, becoming a day patient at Vincent Square Clinic in central London dealing with eating disorders.

Velani Bhebhe, a day programme nurse at the clinic and Ms Stafford's key worker said in a written statement that she visited the clinic twice a week for group and one to one sessions.

She was last seen there the day before her death when the pair spoke about her not attending a meal planning session.

The statement said: "I noticed that she was eating very slowly... she looked and seemed very tired," adding: "She was quiet and introspective, but attentive."

Ms Stafford later fell asleep in one of the relaxation sessions, revealing she had not gone to bed until 3am.

Bhebhe contacted her parents when she did not arrive for her session on Friday, January 15.

The inquest heard how Ms Stafford's frozen body was found by Sister Jessica Gatty just after 7am during her early morning walk in the park.

Giving evidence at the hearing, she recalled how she initially noticed what she thought was discarded clothing on the path, then realised it was a person.

She said: "I think I looked closer to see if the person was alive. I said: 'Hello' and there was no response."

She added: "I bent down and touched her arm which was outstretched. It was very cold and I thought that this did not look too good."

Sister Gatty then flagged down a cyclist to use their mobile to call the police and ambulance service.

A toxicology report from Jennifer Button of St George's Hospital, read out at the hearing, found no trace of any drugs or alcohol in Ms Stafford's body.

Speaking at the inquest, forensic pathologist Dr Robert Chapman, who carried out a detailed post-mortem said Ms Stafford was 5ft 9in and weighed 9st 3lb (58.4kg).

He noted a number of marks or injuries on her body, including grazes on her forehead and fingers, bruising to her right chin and cheek, plus red patches on her right knee and hip, which he said were features suggestive of hypothermia.

He said these were likely to have been caused by her scrabbling around while confused.

He said: "As the body cools, there will be a period of confusion and then the person feels hot paradoxically and removes clothing."

Referring to her wet clothes, he added: "I wondered whether there was a possibility that she might well have gone in the pond at some point, chilling her clothing."