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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 14:54 GMT
'Stressed' Pc took her own life
Paula Tomlinson
Paula Tomlinson was suspended from the firearms unit
The stress of a Merseyside police officer's job in a firearms unit contributed to her taking her own life, a coroner has ruled.

Pc Paula Tomlinson, 35, was found hanged at her home in Birkdale near Southport, Merseyside, in January 2004.

She had recently been dismissed from the police Firearms Department for failing several proficiency tests.

Sefton Coroner Christopher Sumner heard she felt victimised and uncomfortable in the gun squad's "macho environment".

Ms Tomlinson was one of just two women in the 90-strong unit and one of the first female snipers in the country.

Paula Tomlinson killed herself at a time that she was suffering from stress
Coroner Christopher Sumner

The coroner was told she felt she had got on the wrong side of an influential clique of officers after complaining that some of her colleagues had watched a pornographic video during a residential course.

Mr Sumner said: "To conclude that a person has deliberately taken their own life, I must be satisfied that that person was not only physically responsible for their own death, but that they intended such to be the consequence of their actions. I am so satisfied.

"I thus conclude that Paula Tomlinson killed herself at a time that she was suffering from stress, a contributory factor of which was work related."

Following the inquest, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the actions of one officer could have been perceived as bullying but, after taking legal advice, it had decided not to take action.

'Pornographic cartoon'

It said it had found evidence of inequitable treatment, a failure by managers to address Pc Tomlinson's situation and an "in crowd" culture within the firearms department.

A police constable who drew two cartoons of "a pornographic and homophobic nature" had received a written warning from Merseyside Police while an inspector, sergeant and constable had been given advice about their future conduct.

Ms Tomlinson's family wanted the coroner to extend the inquest to look at the extent of bullying she suffered before her death. Their request was declined.

Her husband, Jim Collins, also a serving Merseyside Police officer, said he was unhappy at the terms of the inquest.

A family statement said: "Jim is saddened that a number of witnesses did not have the opportunity to attend court and give evidence.

"Over the last two years, Jim has given much thought to the circumstances surrounding his wife's death and asked himself how, in the space of 18 months, his wife went from being a confident person, happy with her work life, to becoming extremely unhappy and distressed to the point where she took her own life."

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21 Feb 06 |  Merseyside
Pc 'killed herself over bullying'
20 Feb 06 |  Merseyside
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27 Aug 04 |  Merseyside
Force probe over officer's death
01 May 04 |  Merseyside

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