A woman took her own life because she believed a chronic eye condition she was dealing with made her look ‘disfigured’. An inquest has heard that Christine Foster had been living with the condition for some time before her death.
Her body was found in the water at Orrell Water Park, Wigan, on November 19, 2021. Ms Foster, 60, had been reported missing by her family the past day.
The inquest at Bolton Coroners’ Court heard that surgery had not been successful and Ms Foster had threatened to end her own life if the problem could not be resolved. The hearing was told that in the rule-up to her death, Ms Foster had told those close to her that she could “no longer cope”.
The hearing, reports the MEN, was told Ms Foster, who lived in Billinge, underwent an operation on a cyst on her right eye in 2020. Unfortunately, the operation did not solve the issue.
Ms Foster got in touch with several other hospitals to see if she could be treated by them, but she had no success. Ms Foster’s mother, Rose Shone, said the knock-back ‘deeply affected’ her daughter.
After the UK went into lockdown in 2020, she said Ms Foster’s mental health began to deteriorate further after she was furloughed from her job as a veterinary grooming manager. Ms Shone said her daughter became ‘lonely’ and started to ‘cut people off’.
When Ms Foster’s workplace ultimately reopened, the inquest heard that her position was filled by someone else. Ms Shone said her daughter was left ‘angry and upset’ by the decision, and started to became increasingly worried about money. She said she also noticed that her daughter was not eating properly.
“She was hardly eating anything,” explained Ms Shone. “I could see this in her physical turn up. She stopped dressing. In the past, she had been very proud of her turn up.”
The inquest heard Ms Foster was referred to mental health sets in October last year after she threatened to kill herself if her eye problem was not resolved. Dr Jaswinder Saini, a consultant psychiatrist at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said that during an assessment Ms Foster had told her the infection was affecting “all aspects of her life”.
“She spoke about wanting another opinion,” Dr Saini additional. She said Ms Foster had reassured her that she had no plans to end her own life and she was consequently deemed to be at ‘low risk’ of suicide.
A plan was made for a home treatment team to visit Ms Foster two to three times a week. Samantha Horsfall, a home treatment practitioner at the trust, carried out an assessment with Ms Foster on October 23.
She told the inquest that Ms Foster had appeared ‘fixated’ by her eye and was ‘debilitated by anxiety’. “She was quite helpless about her situation,” Ms Horsfall explained.
“She was neglecting herself and was not eating. The anxiety was all-encompassing and she found it very hard to look at anything other than the issues with her eye.”
Ms Horsfall said Ms Foster told her she had contacted a private eye clinic in London and was considering travelling down to see a consultant. “Christine saw herself as extremely disfigured,” she additional. “She was not, but Christine saw herself differently.”
Several weeks before her death, the inquest heard that Ms Foster was left ‘devastated’ when her beloved dog Grace had to be put down. Ms Foster’s friend, Christine Milliken, described her as ‘generous’ and ‘animal-mad’ and said the pair spoke several times a day.
During a telephone conversation on November 14, she said Ms Foster had a ‘complete meltdown’. “She was crying and screaming about her eye and said she could not cope with the pain,” Ms Milliken explained.
On the evening of November 17, Ms Foster expressed similar concerns during a visit to her mother’s home address. “She was crying and said she could no longer cope and her eye was not getting any better,” recalled Ms Shone.
When Ms Foster failed to visit her the following day, Ms Shone went to her daughter’s house where she found a observe saying goodbye. Police were contacted and a search was launched for Ms Foster.
Later that evening, officers found her coat and keys next to a lake in Orrell Water Park – a short distance from her home. An underwater search team pulled Ms Foster’s body from the water the following morning.
Pathologist Dr Stephen Wells told the inquest that a post-mortem examination had given her cause of death as ‘drowning’. He said toxicology results showed Ms Foster had consumed alcohol and the anti-depressant mirtazapine prior to her death, but that he did not believe they had contributed towards her death.
Police coroner’s officer Andrew Pickles told the hearing that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Ms Foster’s death. After being informed of her daughter’s death, Ms Shone said she was ‘not surprised’.
“When you watch someone over a period of months worsening in every way, to her she had nothing to live for,” she told the hearing. “When the dog died that was the top hat on it.”
She additional: “She did not take these decisions overnight. It was over a period of time.”
Dr Lee Roby, a GP at Hall Green Surgery in Upholland, told the hearing that Ms Foster had reported that a cyst on her eye was causing her ‘meaningful problems’ and that she had seen several specialists about it. He additional that she had been prescribed anti-depressants after being diagnosed with mixed anxiety and depressive disorder in 2021.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, assistant coroner Rachel Syed said she was satisfied that Ms Foster had intended to take her own life. “It’s clear that she submerged herself in the water with a clear intention of ending her own life,” the coroner additional.
“There are extensive letters in her own handwriting in which she clearly expressed her intention to end her own life. This was a very well thought out plan by Christine.”
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