Eleanor de Freitas: Inquest hears 23-year-old feared she would 'bring shame on the family' if she was found guilty of making false rape claim

The trainee accountant felt she had 'no way out' after the CPS decided to take her to court for perverting the course of justice

Antonia Molloy
Tuesday 17 March 2015 18:03
Eleanor de Freitas died on 4 April 2014
Eleanor de Freitas died on 4 April 2014

A bright and promising student killed herself just days before she was due to go on trial for allegedly making a false rape claim because she feared she would not be believed, an inquest heard today.

Trainee accountant Eleanor de Freitas said she felt she had "no way out" after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to take her to court for perverting the course of justice.

The 23-year-old from Fulham in London, who was described as a "vivacious, straight-A student", died on 4 April 2014 – three days before she was due to appear at Southwark Crown Court.

In a note left at the scene, read out at West London Coroner's Court, Ms de Freitas said her decision to end her life was "selfish" but said she would "bring shame on the family" if she lost the case.

She had said she felt "ashamed to be British" after the CPS decision to prosecute her, and told her legal team in the run up to the trial that "it would be better if I had been run over by a bus".

The inquest was originally opened by coroner Chinyere Inyama in November last year, but was adjourned so the Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders could personally investigate the Crown Prosecution Service's (CPS) decision to prosecute.

The Metropolitan Police received an allegation of rape from Ms de Freitas in January 2013 but the case was dropped after a man was arrested and released due to a lack of sufficient evidence.

The man then initiated a private prosecution against her to clear his name. The case was later referred to the CPS, which decided to continue with proceedings.

Today the court heard that Ms de Freitas, who suffered with bipolar disorder, had previously been sectioned under the mental health act and told her family she feared being readmitted to psychiatric care.

She said she feared her alleged abuser, who went on to lodge the criminal complaint against Ms de Freitas, would be free to re-offend if he was not brought to book, the court heard.

Ms de Freitas's father, David, told the hearing how his daughter had some support withdrawn in the months leading up to her death following the decision to prosecute her.

He said: "She had been receiving counselling for rape. But she was denied access to counselling from the moment she received summons (for perverting the course of justice).

"Her behaviour changed. In some instances it made her depressed. In other respects it made her bizarre."

He said his daughter began wearing a burka to court appearances through fear of publicity, and would sometimes only leave the house after dark.

The court heard instances of having a panic attack on the day she received a court summons, and later was found throwing packets of crisps in the aisles of the Co-op in the Strand in September 2013.

On December 23 2013, Ms de Freitas drove to Northamptonshire to spend Christmas with her family but took a wrong turn on the A1 and continued driving until she ran out of fuel, the inquest was told.

Her father said: "Eleanor was a very good driver, she had driven that route many times.

"She must have gone through something very traumatic as to be as disoriented and do what she did."

Mr de Freitas also described how his daughter feared being sectioned again and would try to "mask" her feelings.

He said she had been abused mentally and physically during her previous stay in hospital.

Discussing her bipolar disorder, he said: "With bipolar you had lows, it was almost impossible to get her out of the house.

"But she could also be extremely disinhibited. She would spend money like there was no tomorrow and indulge herself."

Earlier, coroner Chinyere Inyama denied a request from de Freitas family solicitor Leslie Thomas QC that the CPS attend the hearing over its obligations to Ms de Freitas under the Human Rights Act.

Mr Inyama cited a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the CPS was "correct" to pursue a criminal case against Ms de Freitas as reason for dismissing the application.

Dr Chris Bench, Ms de Freitas's consultant psychiatrist from 2009 until her death, said he made an assessment of his patient's treatment at every appointment.

The court heard Ms de Freitas, a former Durham University student, had suicidal thoughts twice, and Dr Bench considered her not fit to appear in court in September 2013.

He said his patient was concerned the judge did not seem very sympathetic to her mental state when she appeared as a defendant.

He said she was well enough to attend court again when he saw her on 27 March last year, his final appointment with Ms de Freitas before her death.

The court heard Ms de Freitas's lifeless body was discovered by her mother.

A pathology report recorded the cause of death as hanging.

The coroner recorded that Ms de Freitas took her own life.

He said: "The impending court hearing was clearly a significant stressor in her life at that time."

Additional reporting by Press Association