Eleanor De Freitas 'killed herself ahead of rape claim trial'

Eleanor de Freitas Image copyright Family
Image caption Ms De Freitas took her own life three days before she was due in court

A woman 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.

Eleanor de Freitas, 23, said she felt there was "no way out" after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged her with perverting the course of justice.

Ms De Freitas, 23, of Fulham, London, was found dead in April 2014.

The coroner recorded that Ms de Freitas had taken her own life.

The impending court case had been "a significant stressor in her life at that time", West London coroner Chinyere Inyama said.

He denied a request from the de Freitas family solicitor, Leslie Thomas QC, that the CPS should attend the hearing because of its obligations to Ms de Freitas under the Human Rights Act.

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

The director of public prosecutions Alison Saunders had described the case as "one of the most difficult" she had seen.

Private action

Ms de Freitas, a trainee accountant who had bipolar disorder, made a rape complaint to the Metropolitan Police in early 2013.

The police said there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case and the man she said had attacked her took out a private prosecution, accusing her of perverting the course of justice.

Ms de Freitas' solicitors asked the CPS to halt the private action but instead the CPS decided to take it over and continue it.

Three days before Ms De Freitas was due to stand trial in April last year, she was found hanged.

The inquest into her death heard she had felt "ashamed to be British" after the CPS decided to prosecute her and told her legal team "it would be better if I had been run over by a bus".

Image caption David de Freitas accused the CPS of "serious failings"

She said she feared her alleged attacker would be free to reoffend, it heard.

Ms de Freitas had previously been sectioned under the Mental Health Act and told her family she feared being readmitted to psychiatric care.

She was found dead by her mother.

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

'Stacked against her'

Ms de Freitas's father told the hearing how his daughter had 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.

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.

Suicidal thoughts

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 Ms de Freitas 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 27 March last year, his final appointment with Ms de Freitas before her death.

Speaking outside the inquest, Mr de Freitas said 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.

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

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