Malham Cove suicide: retired Skipton librarian ended her life at North Yorkshire beauty spot, inquest finds

A retired librarian who died after falling from a North Yorkshire beauty spot chose to end her life after being blighted by chronic insomnia, an inquest heard yesterday.

Cheryl Ann Hounslow, 58, from Skipton, died in October 2021 at Malham Cove after weeks of poor mental health.

The inquest into her death, which took place in Northallerton on Tuesday, heard that Mrs Hounslow was a “witty and energetic” woman who loved the outdoors and foraging for food.

But, according to her son Harvey, she had become worried about the pace of the world, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and had begun to suffer from insomnia.

Cheryl Ann Hounslow, 58, from Skipton, died in October 2021 at Malham Cove after weeks of poor mental health.

Mrs Hounslow had contracted covid in the months leading up to her death, and suffered from stomach complaints which may have been attributed to long covid, medical evidence given at the inquest showed.

She was also concerned about a mole on her face which she believed could be malignant, and the possibility that she may have contracted Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection caused by ticks.

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Mrs Hounslow had been admitted to hospital over concerns for her physical and mental health in the weeks leading to her death, but had not been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and chose to discharge herself.

Her son had also raised the possibility that she was suffering from sporadic fatal insomnia - a very rare and usually genetic syndrome which stops the sufferer from sleeping and is incurable and ultimately life-limiting.

But pathological reports found no evidence that Mrs Hounslow had any degenerative or neurological disease.

Her GP, Dr Eleanor Midgley, told the inquest that she believed Mrs Hounslow’s mental health was improving in the days leading up to her death.

She said Mrs Hounslow was also “looking forward” to a brain scan that had been booked to assess if she did have any neurological issues.

But assistant coroner Jonathan Leach heard that Mrs Hounslow had made a previous attempt on her life weeks before she died.

She had also told her son that she had plans to end her life, and had discussed assisted dying.

The inquest heard that on October 21, Mrs Hounslow caught the bus from Skipton to Malham Cove, having noted down the times in her diary the day before.

At around 12.20pm a walker saw Mrs Hounslow falling from the top of the cove and called the emergency services.

Police and paramedics attended the scene, but Mrs Hounslow was pronounced dead just after 1pm.

Mrs Hounslow’s family were in attendance at the inquest yesterday.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Jonathan Leach said: “It’s clear Mrs Hounslow had a supportive and loving family but had a number of concerns around her physical and mental health.”

Preventing suicides at Malham Cove forms a key part of North Yorkshire’s strategy to reduce the number of people taking their own lives in the region.

Signage has been installed by North Yorkshire County Council at key danger points at the beauty spot encouraging people to contact the Samaritans.

In an update on the council’s plan last year, Claire Robinson, suicide prevention lead, said the signs had also been installed in key spots on the Scarborough and Whitby coastline.

The council’s suicide prevention taskforce also confirmed they are looking at the impact of covid on suicides.

Samaritans can be contacted on 116123 or [email protected] for support.