Inquest into death of popular maths teacher — (Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard)

SSRI Ed note: "Much loved" teacher taking antidepressants has inexplicable bouts of depression, splits with boyfriend, jumps to her death.

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Wilts & Gloucestershire Standard

3:09pm Saturday 19th July 2008

By Tina Robins

MATHS teacher Swagota Basak was on medication for depression when she threw herself from Clifton Downs in Bristol into the Avon Gorge below, an inquest has heard.

The 26-year-old who was a much loved teacher at Malmesbury School and who laid the foundations of its Fairtrade campaign, had broken up with her boyfriend the previous day and had seen her GP just two hours before she took her life on February 26 last year.

Eyewitness Emmanuel Guillermou drove to the top of the downs that evening to enjoy the view. His statement said that he saw a woman walk to the railings overlooking the Avon Gorge and look back at him before leaping over. “As she did so she shouted the word jump,'” he said.

A post mortem revealed Miss Basak, known to everyone as Sasha, died from multiple injuries.

Her former boyfriend Dominic Gifford, who was not at the hearing in Flax Bourton, near Bristol, said in his statement that they became friends in 2005 and started a relationship in Spring 2006.

“To me she appeared to be bright and cheery 99 percent of the time,” he said. “There were days when she woke up and was depressed and could not explain why.”

On a very few occasions she forgot to take her medication and became anxious. But he stressed: “She was always right as rain the next morning.”

However he described occasional episodes where she would suddenly and without warning lose all her self-confidence and become fixated on reasons why previous relationships had failed.

When he moved to London for work they decided to see each other as much as possible, but the relationship faltered after he told her he was unhappy playing second fiddle to her time consuming job.

They spent a short and friendly holiday together in Paris, but when they returned he phoned her on February 25 and said they should call the relationship off. “It was the last time I spoke to her,” he said.

Avon coroner Paul Forrest heard Miss Basak was being treated for depression and had expressed thoughts of self-harming in the past.

When she saw the doctor shortly before she died, she had been offered a review in two weeks.

Mr Forrest said a note contemplating death was found and his official verdict was that she harmed herself.

In a statement read to the court her father Dr Amitava Basak said: “We are very proud of our daughter and what she stood for. We don’t know why she did what she did, we can only assume she was in pain.”