Coroner: Pauline took her own life
Prison campaigner intended to take own life
by Eric Allison
published: 30th May 2008
A coroner has ruled that prison campaigner Pauline Campbell intended to take her own life when she took a fatal dose of anti-depressants earlier this year.
Campbell, who protested outside prisons where women had died, began her direct action campaign after her only child, Sarah, met her death at Styal prison, Cheshire, aged 18. Campbell’s body was found lying across her daughter’s grave. Returning a verdict of suicide yesterday, the Cheshire coroner, Nicholas Rheinberg, ruled that although Campbell had a history of suffering from depression, “it would do her an unjustice” to say she had taken her life “while the balance of her mind was disturbed”.
Describing Campbell as “a significant campaigner in the cause of prison reform”, the coroner said her death was caused by an overdose of dothiepen, taken with the deliberate intention of ending her life.
A toxicology report revealed that Campbell had taken an above fatal dose of the anti-depressant. She had driven to the cemetery near her home at Malpas, Cheshire, at around 11.30 on 14 May and her body was found early the next morning.
The hearing, at Chester magistrates court, had heard from a close friend of Campbell’s, Sue Courtley, that the 60-year-old former lecturer had never got over the death of her daughter, in January 2003. Courtley said Campbell had dedicated her life to prison reform and although her protests fulfilled her, the continuing deaths of women in custody had caused her friend great stress. She recalled Campbell saying many times that she could not “bear the pain for ever” and close friends were told by Campbell that ending her own life was “always an option”.