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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 18:37 GMT
KFC bullies 'caused girl's death'
Hannah Kirkham - courtesy of MEN Syndication
Hannah Kirkham had been bullied by colleagues
A jury has decided that a teenager took her own life after being bullied by fellow workers at a KFC restaurant.

Hannah Kirkham, 18, of Baguley, Manchester, had been attacked and humiliated by some of her colleagues, the inquest heard.

The jury said she meant to kill herself by taking an overdose, was clinically depressed and this was "significantly influenced" by bullying at work.

Earlier, KFC had said the staff who bullied Hannah had since left the firm.

It said it introduced anti-bullying policies, including a confidential helpline, following her death.

Hannah's mother Marie had found her collapsed on her bedroom floor on 17 December 2003. She died in hospital nine days later.

In a narrative verdict, the jury said: "Hannah intended to take her own life after a sustained period of clinically diagnosed severe depressive illness which was significantly influenced by bullying and harassment in the workplace."

Hannah took her own life because of what she suffered at work
Marie Kirkham, Hannah's mother
Giving his reaction to the verdict, Rochdale Coroner Simon Nelson said: "KFC is clearly a large organisation with several thousand employees in the UK alone.

"Many of those employees are young, impressionable, vulnerable or a combination of those attributes, as was Hannah.

"KFC's reaction to this inquiry in my view was appropriate, sensitive and proactive."

He added he hoped anti-bullying policies made by the firm would prevent "similar tragic incidents".

'Too late'

He told the Kirkham family: "I hope that you will be able to reflect upon the tremendous qualities Hannah possessed rather than the very tragic circumstances by which you came by her death."

After the hearing, Hannah's mother Marie said: "The findings of today, by the jury, have told us all what Steve and I and my family have known all along - that Hannah took her own life because of what she suffered at work."

She said she was "appalled" by the bullying detailed in Hannah's diary and said she would be "in a women's prison by now" if she had got hold of the perpetrators.

She added: "In our case it is too little, too late but I hope that by bringing Hannah's suffering to people's attention we will make other employers act before it spirals out of control."

'Thorough review'

The inquest had been told that Hannah was stabbed in the arm with corn sticks by her colleagues and had also been shut in the freezer and called a "fat, spotty bitch".

She had written a letter of complaint to the district manager at KFC on 4 December but this was only opened more than three months after her death.

On Wednesday, the jury heard a statement from KFC saying the company was "shocked" by Hannah's death and extended sympathies to her family.

The company said it would not reveal why those named by Hannah had left the firm for "reasons of confidentiality".

It said it had carried out a "thorough review" of policies with help from Hannah's parents, which had ensured it now had a system to prevent bullying or sexual harassment.

'KFC bullies' have left company
07 Dec 05 |  Manchester
KFC worker 'died after bullying'
06 Dec 05 |  Manchester

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