A graphic designer hanged herself when she was let out for a night from a psychiatric unit after her partner, not wanting a baby, left her and embarked on a painful custody battle over their pet dog.
An inquest jury was told that Caroline Forte, 35, of Brighton, hanged herself at the home of her elderly parents on February 20 last year.
She had initially been committed under the Mental Health Act to a hospital psychiatric unit but, against her family’s wishes, was allowed to go home for one night, a decision that ended with her tragic death the same day.
Caroline, who was privately educated at Brighton Girls School, was “hit hard” when her relationship with her partner, Barry Wickens, broke down during lockdown in 2020.
The couple had bought and renovated their first home together, but difficulties arose when they disagreed about having a baby.
An inquest jury was told that Caroline Forte, 35, of Brighton, hanged herself at her elderly parents’ home after being allowed home for one night.
A five-day inquest into Caroline’s death in Brighton heard how Caroline struggled with her mental health following the end of the relationship, before being admitted to a psychiatric ward at Eastbourne District General Hospital.
Despite the family insisting that it was not “safe” for her to come home for the night, the hospital allowed her to be released, and she was found dead shortly thereafter.
Penelope Schofield, Brighton and Hove’s acting chief coroner, told the inquest jury that “the facts needed to be established” surrounding Caroline’s death and that the family had waited more than a year for answers.
She said: “The family have indicated that they did not receive any advice on how best to support Caroline.”
Attending the inquest were Caroline’s parents, Gillian and Anthony Forte, her older sisters, Liz and Sandra, and her older brother, Chris.
In her witness statement, her sister Liz said: “We have lost a vibrant, intelligent, kind, loving and much-adored member of our family whose 35 years are certainly not defined by this relatively short illness.”
‘Caro, as we knew her, was a happy, fun-loving person, the baby of the family. She was an extremely talented and highly successful graphic designer with an infectious laugh and strong family values.
“She had been with her partner, Barry, for a few years and they had bought a house together which they fixed up. It was a planned family home because Caro really wanted to start a family. Barry then decided that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to try for a baby, so they had couples therapy.
Caroline struggled with her mental health after the end of their relationship, before being admitted to a psychiatric ward at Eastbourne District General Hospital.
“However, the relationship continued to deteriorate and Barry finally left in May 2020.”
The inquest heard how Caroline, the youngest of four children, was “hit hard” by his departure and had many ups and downs over the following months.
Liz remembered how her sister had shown up at her house late one night, very upset.
“Barry wanted joint custody of his dog, Doris, and there was assault and harassment with the police involved,” he told the jury.
“He asked if he could come and stay with me because he ‘didn’t feel well’.”
The coroner listened as Caroline began showing signs of psychosis in November 2021, believing her phone had been hacked and she was becoming paranoid about her devices. The family sought medical help and Caroline’s condition stabilized enough for her to go on vacation to Costa Rica over Christmas.
Her sister Liz described Caroline (pictured) as “a fun-loving, happy person.”
However, upon his return in January 2022, things took a turn for the worse, the jury was told.
The sister’s statement continued: ‘She was not well. She kept asking for help changing the passwords for all of her accounts and kept talking about being hacked.
The family arranged for Caroline to stay in Leeds with her other sister, Sandra, who was on maternity leave and could therefore look after her and keep her company.
The coroner heard that, while in Leeds, Caroline twice attempted suicide by overdose, once managing to obtain and swallow a large quantity of paracetamol tablets.
She received emergency psychiatric care under the Leeds and Yorkshire NHS Partnership Trust and was later transferred back to Sussex, where she was admitted under the Mental Health Act to the psychiatric ward at Eastbourne District General Hospital. She hanged herself less than a month later.
The inquest heard that her family believed there had been serious failures on the part of both the Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust and the Leeds and Yorkshire NHS Partnership Trust which resulted in Caroline’s death.
Liz said: ‘They didn’t care about her. She was released when she was not safe and under a mental health section and released to my parents’ house who are 70 years old. She is absolutely stunning,’ she stated.
The investigation, which will conclude next week, continues.