Tributes paid to beloved St Albans wife and mother at inquest
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An emotional inquest was held yesterday into the death of “very talented and deeply loved” St Albans drama teacher and local actress Harriet Rowlands.
Herts Coroner Edward Thomas paid tribute to the 60 year old, of Beaumont Avenue, who died at her home on January 7 this year.
The inquest was attended by 18 people – mostly friends and family, including her husband Anthony, a Lib Dem district councillor.
Mr Thomas spoke at length to them, saying he was “deeply conscious of how awful these proceedings must be”.
He also questioned four witnesses about the events that led to the tragic death of Mrs Rowlands.
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He said a post mortem report showed she had been in “good physical health” and that according to a pathologist’s report, the cause of Mrs Rowlands’ death was asphyxiation.
On January 7, a police constable had arrived at the teacher’s home and found the Rowlands’ cleaner carrying out resuscitation.
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Mr Thomas added: “The paramedics arrived and continued the resuscitation, but sadly there was nothing they could do.”
The Coroner said he wished to get a message across to Mr and Mrs Rowlands’ cleaner.
He said: “She dealt with the situation so well. There was nothing she could have done. There was no way she would have been successful in resuscitation.”
The inquest heard that while Mrs Rowlands had been referred for mental health care following a “depressive episode”, records showed that “there was never any indication of any mental illness prior to July last year”.
Upon returning from a holiday, she experienced increased anxiety levels in early January and asked her psychiatrist to reschedule a visit so she could see him two weeks earlier.
But he was fully booked on January 6. Mrs Rowlands died the next day.
Mr Thomas said that it was clear by the number of people attending the inquest that Mrs Rowlands “was deeply respected” and well supported by family and friends.
He added: “She had symptoms of a severe depressive illness, which must have been frightening for her and her family.”
Mr Thomas said that while Mrs Rowlands was taking medication, which was helping her recovery, she had felt well enough to reduce it, which may have led to increased anxiety.
He ruled that her death was self-inflicted and that she took her own life while suffering severe depressive illness.
After the verdict, Anthony paid tribute to a “beloved mother and wife”.
His family was “deeply grateful for the affection, understanding and practical support we have received from so many people.”
Anthony added: “We will continue to work with the local mental health services to identify the lessons to be learned from how Harriet was treated during her short and tragic illness.
“We understand that so much remains to be done at a national level to improve mental health provisions.”