Kayley (18) hanged herself after rape trauma

TRAGIC: Kayley Jayne Howson
TRAGIC: Kayley Jayne Howson

A DEEPLY troubled teenager who hanged herself at home in Burnley had never recovered from the trauma of being raped when she was 13.

Sensitive 18-year-old Kayley Jayne Howson, who recorded her troubles in heart-rending poems and in her diary, died on March 2nd, 2008, when she was found hanging from a bannister by her mother, Janet Mitchell, at their home in Rosehill Road.

A two-day inquest at Burnley Town Hall heard evidence from Miss Mitchell and health professionals involved in Kayley’s treatment over four difficult years.

East Lancashire Coroner Mr Richard Taylor recorded a narrative verdict and ruled that Kayley had not intended to take her own life, but was confused and prone to impulsive acts.

Miss Mitchell told the hearing that, up to the age of 13, Kayley had no problems but was deeply affected when a person charged with raping her was acquitted at court. She then began to self-harm by cutting herself, took numerous overdoses and was placed under the care of the community mental health team.

Kayley, initially diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was eventually found to be suffering from an extreme emotional personality disorder, and was attending therapy sessions to combat this shortly before she died.

Before that, the bright girl had tried to find solace by writing poems and attending Burnley College where she was doing well. Kayley however continued to self-harm and take overdoses. In December, 2006, she was stopped by police on her way to a church yard with shoe laces in her pocket after telling her sister she would hang herself.

Psychiatric specialists prescribed anti-depressants sertraline and diazepam and, in March, 2007, depakote, commonly used to treat epilepsy, but sometimes used to prevent impulsive acts. Kayley’s family were concerned she was taken off depakote just days before she died, and was not prescribed alternative medication.

Miss Mitchell said Kayley had severe mood swings the day before she died, although she was talking happily to her shortly before her death.

Dr Faeza Khan, a specialist in the diagnosis of mental disorders, said depakote was purely a symptomatic treatment, and the main treatment was psychological intervention therapy, which Kayley was receiving and from which she seemed to be benefitting.

She added: “The effectiveness of depakote in reducing impulsive acts in Kayley is unclear. She took at least two overdoses while on it and may not have been taking it fully. Kayley was reluctant to take medication and said the depakote was making her feel unwell.”

Mr Taylor said: “We will never know or understand the depths of Kayley’s torment. She was confused and prone to impulsive acts with no consideration of the consequences.

“Kayley was a normal teenager who was subjected to a catastrophic episode which had dramatic effects. She started to self-harm and became withdrawn. Her escape was to write down what was happening. We must never forget she was a young girl trying to grow up. There was significant confusion in many aspects of her life and she had a frightening tendency to act compulsively.”

In a statement, Kayley’s family said they felt the local mental health crisis team and NHS Trust had let her down when she needed help the most.

Miss Mitchell said: “I am relieved that, by reading Kayley’s diary, the coroner was able to have an insight into who she was and how she tried to cope.

“I dreaded a suicide verdict because I firmly believe this was just a cry for help. This has lifted a great weight off my shoulders.

“Every day is a struggle for me and I miss my daughter very much. Hopefully this will finally allow us a degree of closure.”