Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

'No way out' for rape claim woman

A "vivacious, straight-A student" taken to court for allegedly making a false rape claim killed herself three days before her trial over fears she would not be believed, her inquest has heard.

Trainee accountant Eleanor de Freitas, 23, said she felt there was "no way out" after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided to take her to court for perverting the course of justice.

She also had counselling services withdrawn from her in the months leading up to her trial as she went from rape victim to accused party.

Ms de Freitas, who suffered with bipolar disorder, from Fulham in London, died on April 4 2014. Her lifeless body was found, hanged, at the family home by her mother.

West London Coroner Chinyere Inyama recorded Ms de Freitas killed herself and that the impending court case against her had been "a stressor" at the time.

But he denied a request from de Freitas family solicitor Leslie Thomas QC that the CPS attend the hearing over its obligations to Ms de Freitas under the Human Rights Act.

Mr Inyama cited a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions that the CPS was "correct" to pursue a criminal case against Ms de Freitas as reason for dismissing the application.

Outside the court, Ms de Freitas's father David said they would consider a judicial review challenge.

He said: "The coroner has accepted the prosecution was a significant stressor which led to my daughter Eleanor taking her own life.

"We are therefore disappointed the coroner did not allow us to explore what we believe are serious failings by a state body - the CPS. This was an entirely appropriate area of exploration for an inquest.

"The inquest should be an opportunity for scrutiny and to learn leassons from this tragic death."

Ms de Freitas had previously been sectioned under the mental health act and told her family she feared being readmitted to psychiatric care, the court heard.

In a note left at the scene, read in court, Ms de Freitas said her decision to end her life was "selfish" but said she would "bring shame on the family" if she lost the case.

She had said she felt "ashamed to be British" after the CPS decision to prosecute her, and told her legal team in the run up to the trial that "it would be better if I had been run over by a bus".

She said she feared her alleged abuser, who went on to lodge the criminal complaint against Ms de Freitas, would be free to re-offend if he was not brought to book, the court heard.

Ms de Freitas's father told the hearing how his daughter had some support withdrawn in the months leading up to her death following the decision to prosecute her.

He said: "She had been receiving counselling for rape. But she was denied access to counselling from the moment she received summons (for perverting the course of justice)."

He added: "She felt everything was stacked against her, and that things were just steam rollering. She was massively upset by that."

He said his daughter began wearing a burka to court appearances through fear of publicity, and would sometimes only leave the house after dark.

Mr de Freitas also described how his daughter feared being sectioned again and would try to "mask" her feelings.

He said she had been abused mentally and physically during her previous stay in hospital.

Discussing her bipolar disorder, he said: "With bipolar you had lows, it was almost impossible to get her out of the house.

"But she could also be extremely disinhibited. She would spend money like there was no tomorrow and indulge herself."

Dr Chris Bench, Ms de Freitas's consultant psychiatrist from 2009 until her death, said he made an assessment of his patient's treatment at every appointment.

The court heard Ms de Freitas, a former Durham University student, had suicidal thoughts twice, and Dr Bench considered her not fit to appear in court in September 2013.

He said his patient was concerned the judge did not seem very sympathetic to her mental state when she appeared as a defendant.

He said she was well enough to attend court again when he saw her on March 27 last year, his final appointment with Ms de Freitas before her death.

The coroner recorded that Ms de Freitas took her own life.

He said: "The impending court hearing was clearly a significant stressor in her life at that time."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph