Woman froze to death by London pond

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The Independent Online

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

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

She had dry hair but wet clothing and her coat was next to her, despite the cold conditions. There was a suggestion she may have sat in the pond before her death.

The hearing at Westminster Coroner's Court was told that Ms Stafford, who was single and was living with her parents in nearby 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, said her father had expressed his worry about her eating in June last year.

She was briefly given inpatient 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 that she visited the clinic twice a week for group and one-to-one sessions.

Ms Stafford was last seen there the day before her death when the pair spoke about her not attending a meal planning session. The clinic contacted her parents when she did not arrive for her session on 15 January.

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

Sister Gatty 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. Deputy coroner Shirley Radcliffe recorded a verdict of accidental death, saying: "This appears on the face of it to have been a tragic accident. I would like to offer my condolences to you all for the loss of your lovely daughter."

Paying a tearful tribute on behalf of Ms Stafford's family, who attended the inquest, her father Frederick, known as Jake, said she was greatly missed by them all. He said: "She was just a smashing daughter. She is still alive in our hearts."

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