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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 10:20 GMT 11:20 UK


Girl died from eating her hair

Rachel Haigh died after eating her own hair

A teenage hairdressing student died after eating large quantities of her own hair.

Rachel Haigh, 17, had an operation to remove a giant hairball from her stomach, but failed to recover from the surgery.

Doctors found a clump the size and shape of a rugby ball in the abdomen of the teenager, who had a habit of chewing on her hair.

An inquest heard that while recovering from the operation at Hasting's Conquest Hospital, Rachel suffered internal bleeding and died on New Year's Day.

Experts called in

Recording a verdict of accidental death, East Sussex coroner Alan Craze said that, because Rachel was learning hairdressing when she died, he had to call in an expert to ensure the hair was hers.

Rachel's mother, Norma, of St Leonards, East Sussex, told the hearing at Hastings Magistrates Court she thought her daughter had grown out of her hair-chewing phase at a younger age.

She said: "She used to chew her hair when she was younger, but had it cut short when she was about 10.

"She began to grow it long again about five years ago but I have not seen her chewing it recently."

Mrs Haigh added that, when surgeons had shown her a photo of the hairball after her daughter's operation, she was shocked. She said: "I could not believe it. It looked like a dead rat."

The consultant surgeon who carried out the operation, John Lyttle, said: "In my 30-year career I have only once seen a hairball like this, and that was just a third of this size."

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