A teenager who took her own life was “blossoming” at the time tragedy struck following years of behavioural and health problems, an inquest heard.
Nicole Guest was found hanged in the woods in Ashton Heath on July 19. She had sneaked out of the house in the middle of the night and travelled alone to the wooded area, and had sent messages to friends in the early hours to tell them she was taking a walk to “clear her head”.
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Her body was found by a dog walker shortly before 6am, and she was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics who attended within 10 minutes of her discovery.
Investigators would later find notes in her phone which expressed her desire to open up about her depression to a doctor and “wanting to be better”, but felt there was “no clear reason for her taking her own life.”
Tragically, the 17-year-old’s father was also walking his dog later that morning when he came across a police incident on the Heath, unaware that it was the scene of his daughter’s death and believing she was still at home in bed.
Coroner Catherine Cundy recorded a verdict of suicide by hanging after hearing evidence from Nicole’s father as well as professionals from a range of child support services.
The inquest, attended by Nicole’s family and friends, heard how the former Byrchall High and RL Hughes Primary pupil battled behavioural issues throughout her youth, which had first developed when she was in primary school.
These issues, which Mr Guest said were “a big challenge,” led to anxiety, low mood and depression, often resulting in Nicole spending days at a time refusing to leave her bedroom. She was also frequently absent from school for large spells despite receiving good reports from her teachers.
Professionals from several children’s services, who had been in contact with Nicole during her short life, were probed by Ms Cundy on whether they could have done any more to prevent Nicole’s low mood and subsequent death, but her parents had nothing but praise for the support she was given.
“As a family, we don’t feel anyone has let her down,” said Mr Guest.
As well as “tremendous help” from the pastoral staff at her school Nicole had been supported by several services such as Start Well, a Council-based young persons service, and CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services), both of which Nicole initially refused to speak with, though she eventually opened up and began to “open up” from time to time.
Things seemingly began to improve for Nicole and, after leaving school, she enrolled on an apprenticeship scheme at Wigan and Leigh College.
Mr Guest felt her behaviour had “improved” after she started the course, and that her confidence had grown significantly after making new friends at college, but that Nicole’s mood was still “up and down with not an awful lot inbetween.”
Two days before her death, there was another sign that Nicole’s mental struggles were on the right track. She had a long “heart to heart” conversation with her mum Sandra, and they discussed her future positively.
“We wouldn’t have had this conversation a year earlier, because we always clashed,” Mrs Guest told the inquest.
“She was blossoming,” she added, and said there was no indication that Nicole had any concerns about her state of mind.
On the day before she died, Nicole asked her dad to get in touch with a lady called Miranda, who had been her main point of contact from Start Well, but did not specify why she wanted to speak with her.
She had, otherwise, been in a positive mood, cleaning her room to get some pocket money so she could go shopping the next day with a friend.
When Mr Guest got up in the middle of the night, he saw Nicole’s bedroom door ajar and her light still on, though this was common for her to do, he said.
He got up again around 6am to walk his dog on Ashton Heath, and noticed her door did not appear to have moved. When he arrived at the heath, he found the area sealed off, but did not discover his daughter was missing until he returned home to wake her.
Unbeknownst to him or his wife, Nicole had taken a back door key and left the house at some point during the night. She was messaging her friends between 11pm and 3am, stating she was taking a walk to clear her mind, but lied and said she had gone back home when urged to by her friends. She did not say what was wrong but revealed she had “had words with her boyfriend”.
She sent her final messages shortly after 3am, one to her boyfriend saying “I love you so much, please don’t forget you mean the world to me” and another to a friend which said “I love you so much”, accompanied by a sad face emoji.
A post-mortem examination found no traces of drugs or alcohol in her system, and she left no goodbye notes to her family.
Recording a verdict of suicide, Ms Cundy said: “The evidence I have heard is that in the days before her death, Nicole presented herself differently to different people.
“Friends described her mood as low in the days leading up to her death,” despite Nicole being seemingly upbeat to her parents.
She added: “Where she went to was somewhere effectively off the beaten track. No one knew she was there and there was therefore no prospect of anyone finding her at that time of the evening. There were no drugs or alcohol found in her system.”
Ms Cundy concluded: “I am extremely sorry. You have my sincere condolences. It is a real tragedy that Nicole died at such a young age. There were so many people who cared about her.”
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