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Family plea after Norwich mum found hanged

PUBLISHED: 11:36 19 May 2010 | UPDATED: 16:37 01 July 2010

Sandra Claxton.

Sandra Claxton.

Ben Kendall

The family of a Norfolk mother found hanged after making repeated domestic violence complaints have called for better mental health diagnosis following an inquest into her death.

The family of a Norfolk mother found hanged after making repeated domestic violence complaints have called for better mental health diagnosis following an inquest into her death.

Sandra Claxton, 41, was found dead at her home in Havers Road, off Drayton Road, Norwich, on December 16. Police had been called to her home the previous night following reports of a violent argument between her and her partner. She had a long history of contacting the police over domestic violence incidents dating back to 2006.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has investigated the case and found Norfolk police acted properly, and Mrs Claxton's family have accepted this conclusion. A spokesman for the force offered condolences to the family.

But Jade Claxton, 24, the eldest of seven children, said she was concerned the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust had failed to properly indentify her mother's problems and said referral systems should be examined.

An inquest at the Assembly House, Norwich, heard that former church volunteer Mrs Claxton had become dependent on alcohol, often drinking a bottle of vodka a day, after her brother took his own life in 2003.

She frequently self-harmed and had a series of abusive partners. Two weeks before her death she had attempted to hang herself in the presence of police officers.

Speaking after the inquest, Miss Claxton said: “Her GP referred her to the mental health trust for help but we feel she was let down by them. At first they said they could not treat her as she was turning up for appointments after drinking. For somebody in her situation it was very difficult not to have a drink but they did not acknowledge that.

“In the months leading up to her death she was receiving help for her drinking and had made progress. But she was never given help for mental health issues even though she had a history of self-harm and depression. I don't think it is possible to treat alcoholism and mental health issues in isolation.

“It doesn't seem to make sense that somebody in her situation was not identified as having mental health problems, especially as she had attempted to hang herself before. We can't help but feel that had she been given more support, she would have been OK.”

PC Katerina Kobelana was one of the officers called to Mrs Claxton's home on December 15. Glasses had been thrown at Mrs Claxton and she complained she had been threatened with assault. The house was in a state of disarray. She was reluctant to talk to officers about the incident.

The inquest heard from a representative of the mental health trust who said Mrs Claxton had cut her drinking dramatically in the months leading up to her death. However, she was not considered to be presenting mental health symptoms.

Coroner William Armstrong recorded an open verdict, saying that although Mrs Claxton had died as a result of her deliberate actions, it was not clear whether she had intended to take her own life. He added that her judgement had been impaired by alcohol.

Following the verdict, Miss Claxton said: “I will remember my mum as a wonderful woman, really fun-loving and extremely creative. But after her brother's death she just couldn't cope and became dependent on alcohol.

“We can't ignore the problems she had but that doesn't take away from how much she meant to us all.”

Mrs Claxton's mother, Florence Furness, said: “She lived for her children and was determined to overcome her difficulties so that she could be with them.”

The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust is considering the family's comments.

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