Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Thursday, 25 September 2008 12:55 UK

Hanged woman 'wanted to be found'

Kelly Stephenson
Kelly Stephenson was found hanging hours after her cousin died

A woman found hanged in her uncle's home while on holiday may have been seeking attention, an inquest heard.

Kelly Stephenson, 20, from Bridgend, south Wales, was found dead in the bathroom hours after her cousin died after hanging himself.

She was visiting her uncle in Folkestone, Kent when she was found, the Ashford inquest heard.

Since 2007, 23 young people have killed themselves in and around Bridgend. An open verdict was recorded.

Her uncle, Matthew Bell, told the hearing: "I think she wanted someone to find her before she actually died."

Mr Bell said his niece, who had been on holiday, had been in good spirits the night before he discovered her hanging unconscious from the shower.

He said she had been laughing and joking with his partner during a night out on the evening of her death. She was last heard shouting: "Open the Tia Maria."

Cousin

Hotel worker Ms Stephenson, who played football for a local club, was found by Mr Bell that evening when she failed to reappear from the bathroom.

The hearing was told a South Wales Police statement revealed she had recently told her mother she was planning to apply to join the police force.

An inquest in June on Ms Stephenson's cousin, Nathaniel Pritchard, heard the 15-year-old hanged himself on the eve of Valentine's Day after an argument.

Nathaniel Pritchard
Nathaniel Pritchard and Ms Stephenson were said to be 'very close'

Coroner Philip Walters, who recorded a narrative verdict on Nathaniel's death, said he was not convinced the teenager, who died two days after his younger brother found him hanging from the window of their attic bedroom, had intended to take his life.

At the inquest into Ms Stephenson's death, the coroner heard she and her cousin had been "very close" and the pair had lived at a family home together in 2006.

The hearing was also told, a month before her death, she had been to the funeral of her ex-boyfriend, Liam Clarke, 20, who had hanged himself.

Yet she was said to be in good spirits on the evening of her death.

Daniel Setter, Mr Bell's partner, said: "When we got out the taxi we were laughing and joking.

"We had a race to see who could get to the door first. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her at that point."

Rachel Redman, Coroner for Central and South East Kent, said she believed Ms Stephenson's judgement may have been affected by the amount of alcohol she had consumed.

'Bewildered'

Tests showed the 20-year-old had been drinking wine during a meal and later had shots and vodka mixer drinks.

Ms Redman said she would "feel very uneasy to return a suicide verdict" after pathologist David Rouse told the hearing Ms Stephenson had died by "suspension".

She said: "I remain bewildered as to what has caused Kelly to end her life. The only verdict available to me is that of an open one."

Ms Stephenson's uncle, the only family member present at the hearing, declined to comment after the hearing.


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