Schoolgirl fainted and died after seeing grotesque pictures in 'FHM'

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The Independent Online

A 14-year-old girl fainted and died after seeing pictures of mutilation and deformity in the men's magazine FHM, an inquest was told yesterday.

Pupils at Ripon Grammar School were warned by the North Yorkshire coroner, John Sleightholme, to consider the consequences of bringing such material into school after an inquest into Odette Coulson's death heard that she had passed out after being shown the magazine's supplement "Carnival of the Grotesque".

Four of Odette's friends testified at the inquest, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, that she was among a group of 15 to 20 fourth-year pupils gathered at the school cricket pavilion during the lunch break on 27 April this year. She passed out after being shown the magazine, banged her head and died in hospital 20 minutes later from injuries to her skull. One of the friends said: "We were all flicking through it and looking at odd pictures. Some were quite gruesome."

The inquest was told that Odette had fainted in a biology lesson last year while watching a video of people being injected.

Odette's parents, Arlene and Andrew Coulson, both 48, from Sharow, near Ripon, called for greater control over magazine publishing. "FHM isn't a top-shelf, adults-only magazine. It can be bought by anyone," said Mr Coulson. "Unsuitable material is too readily available to children via magazines and the internet. The content is obviously being produced to gratify somebody, somewhere, but it is the responsibility of people who provide and sell these magazines to make sure they don't fall into the hands of children."

He added: "[Odette] was just like any normal teenager. She had a real interest in other people. We miss her terribly."

Mr Sleightholme said he could not rule out the possibility that the images contributed to Odette's death and he emphasised the importance of anticipating potential reactions to such pictures. He said: "In no way do Odette's parents wish any young person to be pilloried for bringing that book into school [but] the hope is that others who might be tempted to do so again may think of Odette's death before they take such action." A verdict of accident was recorded.

A spokesperson for FHM said: "We are immensely saddened by Odette's death and extend our deepest sympathies to her family following this most tragic accident. We are constantly reviewing the content of FHM within the context of the magazine's target audience – which certainly does not include either 14-year-old girls or boys."

Pictures from the "Carnival of the Grotesque" were featured on FHM's website. It described the images as "some of the foulest and finest specimens of nature around ... the men, women and beasts of Freakdom, united here in a jaw-dropping special". They were removed yesterday afternoon.