Anguish over mystery death
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