Great Britain

Domestic abuse victim found hanged from tree in middle of busy housing estate

A DOMESTIC abuse victim hanged herself from a tree in the middle of a busy housing estate, an inquest heard.

Sonia Richards, 27, who had a history of drug abuse, was described as a “magical little soul” and “an absolute light”.

The inquest at Truro Magistrates Court heard that a woman driving along the road was waved down by a family who had just got off a bus, Cornwall Live reports.

The woman, whose seven-year-old son was crying loudly, said: “That girl’s just hung herself.”

A community midwife, Linda Benson, was on duty in the area when she saw the witness’s little boy being carried towards her on the afternoon of Saturday, November 18, 2017.

“The little boy was crying and screaming as if he had been hurt,” she said.

The midwife then saw a distressed woman crying "oh my god" over and over, before she saw the woman hanging from a tree herself.

“I’m a nurse and have seen dead bodies, but I was really shocked,” she added.


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Ms Benson checked for the woman's pulse before working to keep people, especially children, away from the area, which was on full view in a grassy area of the housing estate.

Police arrived within six minutes of the initial 999 call but were unable to save her.

The inquest heard that no one had witnessed the act.

Sonia’s sister Jessica said that Sonia, who had one child, had been in a “very violent relationship”.


The hearing heard that Sonia had a drinking problem since 2005 and a heroin dependence from 2008.

She had tried to kill herself in 2017, and had accidentally overdosed on Spice 11 days before she died.

The inquest also heard that Sonia had reported hearing abusive voices which other people couldn't hear, just eight days before her death.

Dr Michael Metcalfe, consultant psychiatrist with the early intervention team, said she appeared "pleasant and not averse to meeting us".

However, the meeting was brought to an abrupt end when a man knocked on the window of the interview room saying “five minutes” at Sonia, who then left abruptly.

[Sonia was a] really bright, energetic person who no matter what issues she had in her life always put other people first. She was a magical little soul

Sonia's sister, Lydia Baker

Doctors were not able to tell whether Sonia was suffering from naturally occurring psychosis or the symptoms of drug use.

Dr Metcalfe said he was concerned that she had lost two stone, but believed she did not present as someone who needed to be sectioned, or was a risk to herself or others.

Sonia's sister Lydia Baker told the inquest that Sonia was a “really bright, energetic person who no matter what issues she had in her life always put other people first. She was a magical little soul”.

Eve Potts, of drug and addiction charity Addaction, said that Sonia’s drug and alcohol problems were exacerbated by multiple challenges including abusive relationships which included violence and sexual abuse, concerns about safety in her home and mental health issues.

“Sonia wanted to reconnect with her family but saw many influences preventing her from getting there,” said Ms Potts.

She told Sonia’s family: “I applaud your support of Sonia, who was an absolute light. I miss her presence in the office.”

The inquest continues today, December 20, when it will hear evidence from a scenes of crime officer and the detective who dealt with the investigation into her death.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or visit Mind’s website.