Sporting St Albans teenager took her own life

PUBLISHED: 06:56 20 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

Francesca Spelzini was a nationally-acclaimed archer

Francesca Spelzini was a nationally-acclaimed archer

A TEENAGER from St Albans who committed suicide this summer was suffering from paranoid delusions, an inquest heard this week. Francesca Spelzini, aged 18, died in Watford General Hospital this June after being found hanging from a light fitting at her h

A TEENAGER from St Albans who committed suicide this summer was suffering from paranoid delusions, an inquest heard this week.

Francesca Spelzini, aged 18, died in Watford General Hospital this June after being found hanging from a light fitting at her home in Parklands Drive.

First signs

Francesca, who was discovered by her father Paul and the St Albans fire crew who broke down the locked bedroom door, first showed signs of paranoia when she saw her GP Dr Mark Bevis, of The Lodge and Highfield Surgeries in St Albans, in October 2007.

Dr Bevis told the inquest that Francesca's behaviour was "very strange" at the time: "She was a delightful and engaging person, but she obviously led a rich fantasy life.

"She firmly believed that she was a character in The Truman Show movie and was absolutely convinced that people were watching her.

"It was a fixed delusion and I couldn't shake her from that belief."

He added: "She also seemed to be obsessed with the idea of getting close to water and I remember one episode where she was trying to cycle to London to get to the River Thames.

"She also suffered from hallucinations and I did mark in my notes after our first appointment that it could be a possible case of schizophrenia."

The inquest heard that Francesca, who had just completed her A Levels at St Albans Girls School (STAGS) and had her heart set on going to Oxford University, had attempted to self-harm in the past, including an incident in November 2008 when a neighbour discovered her outside her house with a rope.

But she was never diagnosed with a mental illness and Jacqui Shea, of the St Albans Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team (CATT), said that Francesca had shown no symptoms of psychosis when she visited the clinic after the episode in November last year and put her behaviour down to an acute stress reaction.

Disturbed

Coroner Edward Thomas said he was unsure why Francesca decided to kill herself: "It is very difficult to know exactly why she did it because she left no note. I think the balance of her mind was disturbed but I can't say how.

"But she clearly wanted to do it because she locked her bedroom windows and doors so no-one could get in and stop her."

He recorded a verdict of death by cerebral hypoxia due to asphyxiation.

After the inquest Mr Spelzini said that Francesca was "wonderfully different" and added: "Francesca had strong friendships and she was one of a group of four best friends - we called them The Four Musketeers - who she was always out with.

"There are over 50 tributes to Francesca on Facebook alone."

He added: "She was very concerned about her academic achievements, but it was her sporting achievements that surprised us the most.

"She won national awards for her archery, she was a very strong swimmer and she loved tennis."

We were pleased to hear that STAGS are going to name a school tennis tournament after her next summer.


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