Cliffs death mother 'left suicide note'

Cathy and Keira Madden A note apparently written by Cathy Madden said her daughter Keira died in an accident at sea

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A mother found dead below cliffs left a suicide note saying she wanted to join her daughter who drowned at sea, an inquest heard.

A coroner recorded an open verdict into the death of Keira Madden, four, whose body was found at their home in Felpham, Bognor Regis, on 3 July 2010.

The body of her mother, Cathy, was found at the foot of the Seven Sisters.

A verdict that Mrs Madden took her own life was recorded at Chichester Magistrates' Court on Wednesday.

West Sussex coroner Penelope Schofield was told it could not be proven whether Keira's death was deliberate or accidental.

Her mother's suicide note, read out at the hearing, said there had been a "horrible accident".

"I was swimming with Keira and she usually rests on my back," the note said.

'Peaceful in bed'

"I felt her grip go and as I turned over to see what was wrong she was unconscious. By the time we got to the shore she was dead.

"I wanted to bring her home and put her to bed where she was peaceful."

The note finished: "I'm so sorry. I love her so much. Cathy."

The court heard Mrs Madden, 40, had developed depression since the breakdown of her marriage to Keira's father, Steve.

She had previously tried to kill herself by taking an overdose, the inquest heard.

Mr Madden said he had believed there was foul play, because his wife had lied about having an inoperable brain tumour in an attempt to stop a custody battle over Keira.

A police car outside the family home in Felpham, Bognor The body of Keira was found in a bedroom at the family home on 3 July

At a court hearing two days before Mrs Madden's death, she had claimed she had a brain tumour and had asked to spend the next couple of days with Keira, even though Mr Madden was meant to be looking after her on the Saturday.

Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki said a post-mortem examination on Keira found she had suffered no physical trauma and showed no signs of disease.

"On the balance of probability it is likely to be drowning," he said.

He added he found it difficult to believe that if Keira did drown accidentally no one else noticed or saw Mrs Madden in distress.

Computer programmer Mr Madden said police told him they had interviewed around 2,000 people in their investigation because they were known to visit several beaches near their home.

"No one heard a scream. No one heard a shout from her. It's sad to say but I believe it was foul play," he said.

Summing up, Ms Schofield said: "There is so much suspicion surrounding the circumstances of Keira's death. You may all have different theories of what happened."

She said she was not satisfied to a reasonable standard that Keira was unlawfully killed nor could she be satisfied that it was an accident.

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