An­guish over mys­tery death

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News -

LOUISE Ben­nett ended up weigh­ing just four and a half stone as her ill­ness and dis­tress dragged on.

Ash­ford mag­is­trates heard that she had rapidly changed from be­ing a bright, out­go­ing girl to be­com­ing un­well with an un­di­ag­nosed con­di­tion.

Steve Tar­leton, for Elaine Ben­nett, said: “This is an ex­tremely sad story.

“In a rel­a­tively short pe­riod of time Louise changed from a bright young girl to some­one quite clearly very un­well who be­haved very oddly. She changed al­most overnight.”

He said her school, High­worth Gram­mar School in Ash­ford, also be­came con­cerned and brain scans and tests could not give a proper di­ag­no­sis.

As her health de­te­ri­o­rated she was cared for at a res­i­den­tial unit called The Rise in Suf­folk, but ab­sconded and re­turned home in Oc­to­ber 2005.

Mr Tar­leton said: “She was in a highly dis­tressed state, weighed four and a half stone and re­ported bul­ly­ing and abuse of a sex­ual na­ture.”

The court heard a preg­nancy test was taken and Kent County Coun­cil’s so­cial ser­vices got in­volved, with so­cial worker Lisa Hutchin­son as­signed to the case.

But re­la­tions be­tween the fam­ily and the depart­ment broke down as Louise was put un­der one-to-one su­per­vi­sion as an al­ter­na­tive to re­turn­ing to The Rise.

This meant that she could not go any­where without be­ing ac­com­pa­nied by a par­ent, but this cur­tailed her so­cial life and her par­ents’ life. She dis­ap­peared af­ter go­ing swim­ming off Folke­stone on June 29, 2006.

An air and sea search was launched af­ter she was re­ported miss­ing and her body was washed up that night near the Ro­tunda Amuse­ment Park. She had drowned.

The fam­ily said Louise had ex­pressed in­ten­tions to com­mit sui­cide but the in­quest re­turned an open ver­dict be­cause no ev­i­dence con­firmed that.

Mr Tar­leton added: “The Ben­netts be­lieve that she was so mis­er­able by rea­son of the one-to-one that she took her own life. But there was no sui­cide note or any­thing to nail that be­lief.

“The par­ents have strug­gled to get to the bot­tom of what hap­pened, not just the me­chan­ics of the death but the med­i­cal con­di­tion she had. It has still not been es­tab­lished and her body is still in the William Har­vey Hospi­tal mor­tu­ary where tests are on­go­ing.”

Mr Tar­leton said the fam­ily be­lieved it was the de­ci­sion to im­pose the one to one on Louise that re­sulted in her choos­ing to take her own life and Mrs Hutchin­son had be­come the pub­lic face of that de­ci­sion.

The court heard the de­ci­sion would have had to come from Mrs Hutchin­son’s bosses, rather than her­self, but it led to Ben­nett chan­nelling her up­set, dis­tress and anger to­wards her.

He said that Ben­nett had also com­mit­ted the of­fence through grow­ing frus­tra­tion af­ter she was un­able to get an­swers or sat­is­fac­tory re­sults from of­fi­cial­dom, even af­ter go­ing to the po­lice.

He said that Ben­nett had also done it, not to dis­tress Mrs Hutchin­son, but to get her­self into a fo­rum where she could air her plight.

Mr Tar­leton said: “That was un­founded. She got her­self into a sit­u­a­tion that doesn’t progress the mat­ter.”

Louise Ben­nett, 16. Her fam­ily still have unan­swered ques­tions fol­low­ing her death

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