Tragic death of woman, 34, left in 'extreme pain' from undiagnosed condition

-Credit: (Image: James Osmond/ Getty Images)
-Credit: (Image: James Osmond/ Getty Images)

A 'bubbly, outgoing and intelligent' 34-year-old Devon woman ended her life after suffering extreme pain from an undiagnosed condition, an inquest has heard. Leidy Massey, who was described as being driven and independent, was found passed away on Beer beach on February 11, 2021, after a missing person appeal was launched.

It has taken just over three years for an inquest to be held into her death at Exeter Coroner’s Court today, June 4. It was confirmed that Mrs Massey, who was born in Columbia, worked as a procurement manager in Bristol where she lived with her husband Ben.

In a statement, he told how she had a master's degree in industrial engineering and they had previously lived in London together. When they moved to Bristol in the summer of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic she struggled to find work.

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As she financially supported her parents, who still lived in Columbia, he described it as a stressful time for her. After securing a temporary admin job at their local hospital she began to experience pain in her hand which then spread to most of her upper body.

By November 2020, he recalled it had also begun affecting her legs and she struggled to walk or get out and about, and had passed out on a couple of occasions due to the extent of the pain. Despite seeking the help of a private GP and being referred to a pain clinic and prescribed medication, her pain continued to get worse.

Mr Massey said scans and tests could not find the cause of the problem and after her health continued to deteriorate they moved to Taunton at the end of November to live with his mother and step-father so that she could receive extra support.

By the following month, he said the impact of the pain and not being able to sleep properly caused her to also suffer with her mental health for the first time and she repeatedly shared thoughts of wanting to end her life because she had 'given up' as they exhausted all avenues.

Mrs Massey received support from the community mental health team and in December 2020 was admitted as a voluntary inpatient on Rydon Ward for adults experiencing acute mental health problems at Wellsprings Hospital in Taunton.

However, she only stayed one night due to the family's concerns over the care she received and not being given her pain relief medication.

Mr Massey said: "From the moment she arrived we had serious concerns. They did not treat her with dignity."

It left Mr Massey and his family having to support her at home and monitor her around the clock to prevent her from trying to end her life. They also received support from daily mental health team visits but he said she 'downplayed' her suicidal thoughts, leading them to think the expressions were a 'cry for help'.

Mr Massey said: "She was an incredibly intelligent person and knew how to play the game."

In January 2021, while they were out on a dog walk in Westbay, he told how she had tried to jump off the cliff.

He said: "It was terrifying and only at this point I grasped how determined she was to end her life." He added: "Then I realised it was only a matter of time."

Not wanting to send her back to the Rydon Ward, her family continued to look after her home with mental health support while continuing to try and find the physical reason for her symptoms.

Tragically, on February 11, 2021, she found a way to escape the house undetected and unknown to her family got a taxi to Beer. She was reported missing to the police and from her mobile phone she was tracked to Beer where she was found passed away that evening following an extensive search by police and coastguards.

Mr Massey said: "It was not a spur of the moment idea. It was pre-planned. Her undiagnosed physical condition left her with no mobility and no quality of life."

Critical of the help that had been available to her, he concluded: "There was no safe place suitable for her needs."

Evidence was also heard from Mrs Massey's mother-in-law Gail. Recalling when Mrs Massey and her son had come to live with them, she said in a statement: "On her return, she was a completely different person. She was in obvious physical pain, could not sleep and was anxious."

She added: "I do not believe she wanted to die; she just wanted to end her physical pain and the only way she could see to do this was to end her life."

In a statement, the taxi driver who took Mrs Massey to Beer told how she had not spoken of suicide and he had not had any concerns about her mental health. That evening she was found by police near the shoreline along Beer beach.

A post-mortem examination confirmed the cause of her death was immersion in cold water and that there were no suspicious circumstances. It was also noted she had taken a higher than therapeutic dose of her prescribed insomnia medication.

Before the coroner reached her conclusion, Gail Massey described her death as 'tragic' and thanked mental health professionals for 'doing their best' but said she wished their concerns had been listened to more closely rather than the reassurances given by Mrs Massey, and that she remained concerned about how other patients may be treated on Rydon Ward.

Alison Longhorn, area coroner for Exeter and greater Devon, assured evidence from the inquest would be sent to the hospital trust before she reached a conclusion of suicide.

She said: "She consumed excess prescribed medication and deliberately entered the sea. She had a significant history of recent mental ill health and repeatedly told family members she wished to take her own life."

Passing on her condolences to her family, she said: "I can't begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for you all in the months before her death and what is blatantly apparent to me is the efforts and lengths you went to to try and support her.

"I am sure she was extremely grateful for that and that she would have succeded in taking her life far more quickly had it not been for the efforts of you and your family. To lose her must have been devastating after all the efforts you made to try and help."