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By Kerry Mcdermott
PUBLISHED: 13:36 GMT, 9 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:59 GMT, 9 August 2013
A coroner has slammed a ‘suicide book’ found in a 19-year-old girl’s bedroom after she overdosed as ‘wicked’ and ‘irresponsible’.
An inquest into the death of Toni Haw, from York, heard she died following an overdose of medicine and alcohol that was referenced in the ‘very disturbing’ publication.
York coroner Donald Coverdale said he was ‘deeply shocked’ to discover the book was widely available online, as the hearing was told Miss Haw’s boyfriend used the same method to commit suicide days after her funeral.
Alan Hutchinson, 30, a kitchen porter, was found with a copy of the order of service from Miss Haw’s funeral, the inquest heard.
The book on ‘self-deliverance’, which was published independently, purported to contain ‘methods to accomplish one’s own easy, peaceful and dignified death’.
It claimed to be intended for ‘rational suicide’ in the face of ‘unbearable and unbelievable suffering’, specifically for people with terminal illnesses.
But Mr Coverdale said: ‘It seems to me that it can act as a clear encouragement for people who may be at a low ebb actually to end it all and take their lives.
‘It is a very, very disturbing book and I am deeply shocked that it is possible to acquire a book like this.
‘It has to be said that if Toni Haw had not had access to this publication, she may not have taken the overdose which ended her life.’
He said the book had been explicit in its descriptions of various methods of committing suicide, and that the method used by Miss Haw had been mentioned specifically and graphically in it.
Mr Coverdale added: ‘I find it very sad that people who are in distress, possibly as a result of mental illness, are able to find comfort from a book that may encourage them to take their own lives.
‘I find it alarming that the book is, presumably, freely available for purchase.’
Miss Haw’s mother Hilary Haw, 51, echoed the coroner’s remarks.
‘I think this book did have a significant effect on my daughter’s actions and am shocked that these kinds of publications can be so easily obtained.
‘I feel the information contained in the book could possibly influence other vulnerable people to make bad choices,’ she said.
The inquest heard Miss Haw, who had been learning sign language, had a history of stress and social anxiety and had been prescribed a variety of anti-depressants.
Her mother called an ambulance after checking on Miss Haw before bed on February 27 and noticing her daughter’s speech was slurred.
The teenager was rushed to York Hospital but died in the early hours of February 28.
Mr Coverdale returned an open verdict, saying he could not be certain Toni intended to end her life.
Miss Haw’s boyfriend Alan, a kitchen porter, was found at his home on March 23 with a note which emphasised the distress he had suffered since his girlfriend’s death.
A copy of the order of service at her funeral and a picture of her were found with his body.
Mr Coverdale said: ‘Her death hit Alan Hutchinson very hard and he found it very difficult to cope with the loss.’
The inquest heard he had overdosed on medication and alcohol.
‘He was aware of the means by which Miss Haw ended her life and he had chosen
to take the same substance to excess to end his life,’ Mr Coverdale said after recording a suicide verdict.
‘It is a very, very disturbing book and I am deeply shocked that it is possible to acquire a book like this.’
– Coroner David Coverdale
Chris Docker, director of Exit, an organisation founded in 1980 to provide information on how to end one’s life, spoke on behalf of the author after the hearings on Thursday.
He said: ‘People can be irrationally overcome at any age and I think all we can do is slow them down a bit, have them take a deep breath and think about it.
‘I don’t think the book precipitates someone’s suicide or not having the book prevents someone’s suicide, and some letters we have had say it gives people the courage to live longer.’
Mr Docker said the book found in Miss Haw’s bedroom was one of many available through several publishers around the world.
He said that, along with methods to effectively and painlessly end a life, it also contained information on groups and organisations she could have contacted while feeling suicidal.
‘Sometimes suicide can be prevented and sometimes it can’t,’ he said.
‘This is something very sad, that a small proportion of teenagers go through and decide, sadly, to end their life. It is very, very hard to accept, but it happens.
‘There are other books that a person might get hold of, but if they do get one of ours we only hope they get through a reasonable amount of material that shows their depression, even if it’s the most terrible thing in the world for them, will pass.’
A spokesperson for Samaritans said books like this contained ‘harmful information’.
She said: ‘We know it’s a criminal offence to encourage or assist suicide in the UK.
‘Publishing detailed information about methods of suicide, be it online, in print or in the mainstream media, can be extremely dangerous for vulnerable people as there is extensive research to show that “copycat” suicide attempts are often made based on information people have been exposed to.’
The book has not been named at the request of The Samaritans.