A British mental health blogger and accomplished yachtswoman died in a secure psychiatric facility after ingesting a poisonous substance she purchased in Russia and misled staff about its identity as protein powder.
Beth Matthews, 26, was not supposed to open her mail at The Priory Cheadle Royal hospital in 2022, but she did so due to “inconsistencies” in her care, according to an inquest heard Monday, according to the Manchester Evening News.
Claire Smith, a police coroner’s officer, said Matthews’ phone revealed an order of the substance from Russia and several visits to online suicide forums.
The Cornwall woman, who competed in the Fastnet yacht race at the age of 15, died on March 21, 2022, while under the care of the staff at the psychiatric hospital.
She was being treated in a secure ward for a personality disorder after being detained under the Mental Health Act for “specialist therapy,” the Times of London reported.
Smith told the inquest at Stockport Coroner’s Court that police determined Matthews ordered the unidentified substance herself and that there was no criminality involved in her death, according to the Evening News.
Matthews collapsed after opening the package, which she had told the staff contained protein powder. According to the report, she went into cardiac arrest and was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
The woman had frequently accessed a website with thousands of threads discussing suicide methods, one of which involved swallowing a poisonous substance that she “had attempted to purchase from a number of sources,” Smith said, the BBC reported.
The Priory’s head of risk and safety, David Watts, said it was “impossible” to monitor patients’ cellphone web browsing — and explained that while the unit’s Wi-Fi has a firewall, patients can access some websites via their 4G and 5G connections, which staff cannot control, according to the Manchester paper.
However, jurors were told that Matthews was not supposed to be able to open her own mail.
Suzanne Barnard, The Priory’s investigations chief, said there had been an “inconsistent approach” to the delivery of Matthews’ care plan — with some staffers allowing her to open her mail while others died it for her.
She stated that there was a “clear” instruction in the care plan that the woman not open her mail.
“I could not find any evidence that there were other areas the care plan had not been followed,” Barnard reportedly said.
Dr. Sumanta Gupta, a consultant psychiatrist at the hospital, told the inquest he had not been informed of a claim Matthews made to the staff that it was “already done now” after a conversation about “things you can purchase that do the job.”
Gupta stated that if he had known, he would have initiated an immediate review of her care plan.
Assistant Coroner Andrew Bridgman told the jury that Matthews had “ingested a substance that came through the post, quite quickly became unwell [and] was taken urgently to hospital where she sadly died,” the Times of London reported.
When paramedic Kate Barnes arrived, staffers told her that Matthews “had a parcel delivered to the unit, which she opened in front of them and managed to consume,” according to the outlet.
Barnes was told that patients could open their mail if they were supervised by staff.
The inquest heard that Matthews had suffered from mental health issues from an early age and was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, the Times of London reported.
She was reportedly severely issued in a failed suicide attempt after jumping from a bridge in April 2019, according to the Manchester Evening News.
In a statement read during the hearing, Matthews’ mother, Jane, said her daughter was “an incredible character” who was “bright and vivacious” and “would light up the lives” of everyone she met.
Matthews was “caring, intelligent, and articulate,” and he enjoyed sports and excelled at sailing.