Suicide of sailor aboard Portsmouth destroyer

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A ROYAL Navy officer killed herself on board Portsmouth-based destroyer HMS Edinburgh, an inquest heard.

Lt Sara Hellawell locked herself in her cabin on June 16 after an evening drinking.

The 26-year-old was found dead after a colleague forced open the door.

The warship, which had left Portsmouth on May 25, had been on a tour patrolling for pirates off West Africa.

Empty blister packs of medication were found scattered on the floor of her cabin and four letters were beside her bed.

A post-mortem examination revealed Lt Hellawell, from Ampthill in Bedfordshire, had died from drug toxicity caused by an anti-depressant also used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, and a painkiller.

The inquest was told that Sara had appeared normal on the night before she died.

But later while having a cigarette on the quarter deck with another officer, she had become upset when he called her ‘sweetheart’.

Coroner David Morris at Dunstable Coroner’s Court recorded that she took her own life while on active service.

he addressed her as “sweetheart”.

The court heard she told him: “Do you realise how condescending that sounds?”

The coroner said what had caused her to take her own life was not known and being called “sweetheart” would not normally cause her to get angry.