Serious case review into death of girl, 14, found hanged in tree

Jessica Blake
Jessica Blake
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A SERIOUS case review is to be held into the death of a teenage girl who made a suicide pact with a friend and was found hanged in a tree.

Jessica Blake, 14, who had a history of self-harm, was found sitting in a tree with a ligature around her neck near Chester Avenue in Beverley on August 26, a day after she went missing from her home.

Jessica Blake

Jessica Blake

But an inquest into her death heard she may not have intended to take her own life, despite making plans with a close friend to jump off the Humber Bridge the following week.

Hull and East Riding Coroner Geoffrey Saul recorded a narrative verdict at yesterday’s hearing after saying Jessica’s age, her “history of fantasy”, the lack of a note recording her intentions, and the position she was in when found meant he could not be certain her death was suicide.

Mr Saul said: “On the 26 August, 2012, in a wooded area to the rear of Chester Avenue, Beverley, Jessica Louise Blake was found deceased. She died from hanging at her own hand but the question of her intent remains uncertain.”

In a statement Jessica’s friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said they would discuss suicide and self-harm when they were unhappy or angry but she did not believe it would happen.

“I never really believed it was going to happen,” she said. “I always thought Jessica felt the same as me; that we were never really going to do it.”

The court heard Jessica had been referred to a children’s mental health service on November 23, last year after she had twice been to her doctor that month after using a razor blade to cut her arm and neck.

Community nurse Claire Baldwin said Jessica had said she cut herself because she felt angry and frustrated at being given jobs to do at home. She was discharged from the service on February 29.

Detective Constable Rebecca James said there had been some low-level bullying at Jessica’s school involving name-calling but not always involving the teenager.

In the months leading up to her death, Jessica told friends a number of stories that were not proved or she admitted were untrue.

Police and social services became involved with the family after Jessica told a friend her father had hit her but an investigation found no evidence of violence and Jessica later admitted she had made up the story.

She also reported that she had been raped but later withdrew the allegation.

On March 9, firefighters were called to the family home in Nolloth Crescent, Beverley, after Jessica set fire to the curtains in her bedroom while lighting pieces of paper in a bin.

Shaun Harrison, the crew manager who attended, said he spoke to Jessica, who was upset about what happened, and became concerned for her welfare after seeing a mark on her wrist.

Thinking it would be “more prudent” to speak to her alone, he waited until they were and then spoke to her for about 15 minutes.

In written evidence, he said: “I got the feeling that there was something wrong, I can’t put into words what it was. I thought it was possibly some sort of cry for help.”

Still troubled by the incident the next day and after discussing it with a colleague, Mr Harrison made a referral to the juvenile fire-starters’ intervention scheme and also completed a CP1, a child protection form, which was sent to the safeguarding team.

In a statement released after the hearing, Bron Sanders, independent chair of East Riding Safeguarding Children Board, said: “East Riding Safeguarding Children Board will be undertaking a serious case review into the sad death of Jessica Blake. The findings of the review will be published in due course.”