Cambridgeshire

Emma Brown: Runner battled anorexia 'hell' for years

Emma Brown Image copyright Brown Family
Image caption Emma Brown had been predicted to be an A-star student before anorexia took over her life

An aspiring Olympic runner died after battling anorexia from the age of 13, an inquest heard.

Emma Brown, 27, was found dead in her flat in Cambourne, near Cambridge, by her mother on 22 August 2018.

She was one of five anorexia patients who died while being treated in the East of England 2012-18.

Emma's father, Simon Brown, told the inquest in Huntingdon she had been diagnosed with an eating disorder after she was bullied at school.

Miss Brown's mother, Jay Edmunds-Grezio, described how her daughter would run 15 miles a day to maintain her low weight.

She said efforts were made to turn this into a positive and boost her self-esteem, including her training with Bedford Harriers running club under the guidance of Paula Radcliffe's former coach, Alex Stanton.

"In her mind she was heading for the Olympics but she couldn't control the amount she was running," she said.

Image copyright Brown Family
Image caption Simon Brown described his daughter as a "force of nature"

Mr Brown described to the court how his daughter's illness was a "descent into hell" and she would steal money from the family and spend it in restaurants in Cambridge, then make herself sick.

When the total reached thousands of pounds, he reported her to the police.

"This is an illness where the patient feared weight gain, she feared recovery, so fought against the help that was being offered," he said.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is an eating disorder and serious mental health condition. People with anorexia try to keep their weight as low as possible, which can make them very ill because they start to starve.

Signs and symptoms of anorexia in females include periods stopping or, in younger women and girls, not starting. Physical problems can occur, such as feeling lightheaded or dizzy, hair loss or dry skin.

Factors increasing the likelihood of anorexia include a family history of the illness or being criticised for your eating habits, body shape or weight.

There are two main sub-types - restricting and binge-purge - and there can be crossover between the two. In one seven-year study, more than half the women involved moved from restricting to binge-purge.

Source: NHS/Beat

A post-mortem examination gave Miss Brown's cause of death as lung and heart disease, with anorexia and bulimia nervosa as contributory factors.

Sean Horstead, assistant coroner for Cambridgeshire, who is overseeing each of the five separate inquests, said he had "made no findings or determinations about any definitive link".

He expressed concern at the "paucity of the investigation" that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group had conducted instead of a serious incident report.

He noted there were no interviews with Ms Brown's parents or "key clinical figures". The inquest heard this had been due to time constraints.

Image copyright Brown Family
Image caption Simon Brown posing for a photo with his daughter Emma near the River Cam in Cambridge

A separate inquest into the death of 24-year-old Maria Jakes, who died of multiple organ failure in September 2018, concluded last month that insufficient monitoring of her condition may have played a part in her death.

Separate inquests are due to be held for Amanda Bowles, 45, who died in September 2017, 18-year-old Madeline Wallace, who died in March 2018, and Averil Hart, 19, who died in December 2012.

Ms Brown's inquest, which is listed for eight days, continues.

If you are affected by any of the issues in this story, you can talk in confidence to eating disorders charity Beat by calling its adult helpline on 0808 801 0677 or youth helpline on 0808 801 0711.

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