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By Amanda Williams
PUBLISHED: 18:46 GMT, 27 January 2014
- Frances Warren, 26, had been to her GP with anxiety and depression
- In the weeks before her death she was worried about her dyed hair
- An inquest in Avon heard she repeatedly texted her hairdresser to ‘fix it’
- Police found her body in dense woodland in Sedgley, West Midlands
A young office worker who had been suffering from anxiety and stress killed herself after becoming anxious about her hair colour, an inquest heard.
Frances Warren, 26, was concerned that her long blonde hair had turned a shade of ‘yellow’ or ‘ginger’ and was desperate for it to be fixed.
Miss Warren had seen her GP a couple of weeks earlier reporting symptoms of anxiety and stress and had been offered anti-depressants and had referred herself to a counselling service.
She was so anxious about the colour of her hair, she texted her hairdresser 50 times requesting her for help, an inquest at Avon Coroner’s Court heard.
The inquest was told that immediately after an appointment with her hairdresser at her home in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire she disappeared – leaving her purse and handbag behind.
Two days later on May 31 last year police found her body 80 miles away in dense woodland in Sedgley, West Midlands.
Officers had been searching the area off Hickmerelands Lane after her silver Honda Civic car was recovered nearby with her mobile phone left on the dashboard.
The inquest was attended by Miss Warren’s parents, Kieran and Marjorie, sisters Catherine and Nicola, boyfriend Sam Cotton and other family members.
In a written statement, her boyfriend Sam Cotton told the hearing: ‘Throughout the two months leading up to her death she had problems with her hair.
‘She changed her colour four or five times and had had it recoloured since March but was uncontrollably upset and wouldn’t listen when I said it was OK. It took over her life.’
Then in December 2012 the couple had returned to live with their respective parents in order to save money to go travelling for six months and then buy a house.
But the switch had reportedly upset her and she sought help from her GP, Mark Thompson. He referred her on May 14 to Lift, a psychotherapy and counselling organisation.
The inquest heard both her doctor and the psychologists diagnosed depression and anxiety issues, without a suicide risk.
Giving evidence both Dr Thompson and Jade Whiston, who saw Miss Warren at Lift, said she was obsessing with her hair.
The inquest was told Miss Warren agreed to attend a cognitive behaviour course but refused to take her anti-depressant medication.
Det Con Sue Pesticcio, of Avon and Somerset Police, said that on May 28 – the day before Miss Warren’s disappearance – she was upset about her hair.
‘Marjorie describes Frances as not being herself again. She was fretting about her hair again,’ Det Con Pesticcio said.
‘All of a sudden she wasn’t happy with it saying it was ginger and her whole world was falling apart.
‘She said things like wishing she was dead, she hated how she looked, she appeared to have lost all confidence and her appearance was everything.’
On May 29, Miss Warren told her mother she was not going to work because she had been sick in the night and was still feeling unwell. Her parents went to work, leaving her in bed.
Det Con Pesticcio told the hearing that Miss Warren repeatedly texted hairdresser Kelly Hill asking her to come to her home and look at her hair.
‘Kelly stated that overnight she had received about 50 text messages from Frances wanting her to look at her hair, so Kelly went round to see her,’ Det Con Sue Pesticcio said.
‘However, Frances was not happy with the result – she was angry and wanted it changed.
‘Kelly told Frances she would do her hair again but was unable to do it at that time because of another appointment.
‘Kelly told Marjorie there had been nothing wrong with her hair.’
Det Con Pesticcio said that the hairdresser and Miss Warren both left her home shortly before 4pm on May 29.
Miss Hill said in a statement read to the court that her first contact with Miss Warren was on May 19 when she received a call asking her to look at her hair because it had been cut the day before by another hairdresser and she was not happy with it.
‘I was not doing hair that day as it was a Sunday but she seemed so desperate to get it sorted out so I said I would come around,’ she said.
‘Her hair was very blonde and it didn’t look like she needed anything done but she wanted highlights underneath and said it was yellow.
‘As I was doing her hair she wouldn’t speak to me and said she was too nervous. While waiting for the colour to take she walked around smoking and appeared nervous.
‘When I finished her hair she wanted me to take photos of it in every room so that she could see what it was like in different light. She was in my house for around three hours before she left.
‘About two hours later she returned and said it was still yellow underneath and I offered to put more highlights in.
‘Later that evening she called my phone and said she wanted more highlights as her hair was still yellow.
‘I told her I couldn’t put anymore in but offered to put a toner on her hair to see if it would help.’
Miss Hill said that prior to the final appointment on May 29 Miss Warren had ‘continuously called’ and she resorted to leaving her phone in the car while at appointments.
‘She seemed alright and joked that I must have thought she was mad,’ Miss Hill said.
‘She just wanted something done to get rid of the yellow and said she wanted to go dark instead. I told her I could put a toner on, which she could wash out if she didn’t like the colour.
‘I did warn her that it would look black to her because she was already so white from the bleach. Once I finished her hair she looked in the mirror and said she hated it.
‘She started to shake and appeared very stressed and freaked out by the look. I assured her it was not permanent and it would wash out.
‘She then asked me to bleach her hair but I said I couldn’t.
‘All of a sudden her mood changed and she became very calm and told me she just needed to go for a drive.
‘I did say to wait a few weeks and I would look at doing something with it. I did not hear from her again but I was surprised because in the two previous weeks she had been in constant contact.’
Miss Hill added: ‘I know people can be very particular about their hair but Frances couldn’t just see what everyone else saw.
‘Her hair was as white as it could go but she was still positive it was yellow. I only put toner on to try and help her.’
Miss Warren had also sent text messages to friends fretting about her hair.
Victoria McCullough told the hearing in a statement: ‘I can recall her ringing me and telling me it had gone orange, crying and telling me ‘It’s gone ginger, hasn’t it?’.
‘I know she had her hair done for the third time and I said it looked really nice but I know she wasn’t happy.
‘During this conversation I recall her saying “I don’t want to be here” but not for one moment did I think she was suicidal.’
On May 27, Miss Warren texted Miss McCullough, saying: ‘Vic, I can’t, I just want to be dead. I really mean it. Do you want to get back with him?’
‘I was slightly confused because she talked about death then asked about my personal life,” Miss McCullough said.
‘She then said ‘I really don’t feel good about anything Vic, it’s all taking its toll with my hair and I can’t cope.’
Miss McCullough added that she never thought her friend would take her own life over her hair and ‘truly believed there must have been something else’.
The inquest heard that Miss Warren was reported missing by her parents that evening and she was found dead two days later. The inquest heard there was no evidence she had left a note.
A post mortem examination found Miss Warren had died from hanging.
Terrence Moore, Assistant Coroner for Avon, recorded a conclusion that Miss Warren had taken her own life.
He said: ‘She described herself as obsessing about her hair and I suppose the number of calls and texts she made and the number of changes she made and the efforts she made to get her hair changed… maybe she wasn’t wrong that there was something she felt very strongly about.
‘She felt very strongly about it and by May 29 she clearly wasn’t happy. Interestingly Kelly Hill said she was calm and not at all stressed. She had got into her car and drove off.
‘She presented to the doctors and the psychological services as someone who was clearly depressed and anxious but not someone who was at high risk of self-harm.
‘I have to say that I am at a loss to identify what it was that changed. I think in the circumstances I can be satisfied without any reasonable doubt that she took her own life.’
A Facebook group set to help look for her received 7,500 followers and featured heartfelt tributes from friends as well as her boyfriend, Mr Cotton.