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By MARK DUELL
PUBLISHED: 09:53, 31 March 2014 | UPDATED: 15:03, 31 March 2014
Dr Isobel Maxwell-Cameron had just gained an organic chemistry research post at the University of Manchester – but struggled when laboratory experiments failed and found it was not the job for her.
After a failed suicide attempt, the 25-year-old – who had a history of depression – was found dead in the bathroom of her apartment in Salford when her mother alerted Greater Manchester Police.
She had been due to start a new project management role in the research group just two days later, and left a ‘to-do’ list on the kitchen table – which included taking her hamster back to the pet shop and discussing her work future.
Dr Maxwell-Cameron excelled in her studies and received a PhD in organic chemistry from the University of Otago in her home town of Auckland in October 2013 and decided to emigrate 11,500 miles to the UK to further her career.
She travelled to the Republic of Ireland with her research group to deliver a presentation at the prestigious University of Dublin which was extremely well received.
Outside work, Dr Maxwell-Cameron enjoyed karate, rowing, acrobatics and fire dancing – but she struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, depression and anxiety for a number of years, and was receiving treatment.
At an inquest in Bolton, Greater Manchester, a statement was read from her mother Priscilla Cameron, who was unable to fly over from New Zealand.
Mrs Cameron added: ‘She was passionate about science. When she got the job in England she was so anxious about moving from a small city to a large city on the other side of the world. But she was very outgoing and friendly and expecting to make new friends.
‘She managed her depression by always having a hobby outside of study. Some family friends knew about her struggles but others didn’t. She had a great sense of humour and fun.’
Despite protestations from her family, Dr Maxwell-Cameron chose to live alone in England and after her grandfather died in November last year, would regularly tell her mother over phone or Skype that she was suffering badly from depression.
She had tried to hang herself on January 5, but failed. She then continued to work the following week without mentioning to colleagues the personal turmoil she was enduring and appeared to be ‘very friendly, lively and bubbly’ when they went out for a drink.
Mrs Cameron said: ‘She was alone at Christmas, she seemed a bit low. On January 6 she called me to say she had tried to hang herself the night before. I didn’t realise how quickly she could go to that.
‘She said she was feeling the worse she had ever felt.’ She saw a psychiatrist after contacting her mother and was prescribed anti-depressants which seemed to be working.
Mrs Cameron said: ‘She found high failure rates in experimental work difficult to deal with. She then got offered work outside the lab.
‘On Saturday evening she was down again and wanting to come home. I was surprised by her rapid switch and told her not to rush decisions. The offer of different work seemed like a good start.’
‘She called me to say she had tried to hang herself the night before. I didn’t realise how quickly she could go to that’
Mrs Cameron offered to call her daughter on Saturday night, New Zealand time, but she declined, saying a mental health crisis team were paying her a visit in the morning.
After calling and texting her daughter the following day with no response, Mrs Cameron called Greater Manchester Police suspecting the worst, and an officer discovered her body that night on January 11.
Her mother added: ‘I regret not encouraging her to come home and not calling her on Saturday night.’
Healthcare support worker Wendy Higham, who was helping counsel Dr Maxwell-Cameron after her failed suicide attempt, visited her apartment on the day of her death.
Miss Higham said: ‘She was very warm and pleasant. She invited me in and asked me to sit down. She said she had plans for the evening to watch some TV and so some knitting.
Recording a narrative verdict, Manchester West Coroner Alan Walsh said: ‘She was a very well-educated, intelligent woman and appears to have been a very outgoing person with friends.
‘From the evidence I have heard, even though it may have been different in her mind she appears to have been working very well and was successful within the research team.
‘I accept that she was uncertain about her future in chemistry and she was a little disillusioned with regard to her chosen discipline and also the fact of her involvement with a research team within that discipline.
‘I find her death to be an enormous tragedy. A young, talented, intelligent, vibrant young lady who came to England from New Zealand believing she was going to further her education by contributing in terms of research to projects that might benefit others’
Alan Walsh, Manchester West Coroner
‘She would go out for a drink and when she was out she was vibrant and someone who was part of the social gathering but more than that very alive in the way she enjoyed herself.
‘Her colleagues thought something was not quite right but were not aware of her previous medical history. She had a previous history of diagnosed depression.
‘She didn’t talk about depression to her work colleagues or those she socialised with. She didn’t warn anybody about what she was about to do and there was no contact with her mother which is significant in my mind.
‘The attempt on the 5th was a spontaneous act at night when she was on her own. That is not dissimilar to what happened on the 11th. In these lonely times and lonely occasions at night the depression would be a factor that is important.
‘I find her death to be an enormous tragedy. A young, talented, intelligent, vibrant young lady who came to England from New Zealand believing she was going to further her education by contributing in terms of research to projects that might benefit others.
‘For her to die in these circumstances in an apartment in Salford is something that would have been beyond the imagination of her family in New Zealand. It is a tragedy of utmost proportion. I am greatly saddened by the loss of such talent.’
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