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22 October 2014, 13:35
A talented young sailor from Lymington hanged herself after being prescribed an acne treatment which had known side-effects of depression, an inquest has heard.
The body of Jessica Eales was discovered in woodland at Sway in the New Forest, on 31 July - the day after her 17th birthday - about a mile-and-a-half from her family home.
The teenager, who had represented Great Britain in sailing, left a handwritten note in her bedroom saying ``I am sorry, I love you with all my heart XXXX''.
Her rucksack contained a half empty bottle of gin and a bottle of liquor although toxicology tests showed a low alcohol level in her blood which made it uncertain whether she had been been drinking.
Jessica had recently represented Great Britain at the Isaf Youth Sailing World Championships in Tavira, Portugal, where she finished 11th.
She had also recently won a gold medal at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Youth National Championships in Weymouth and Portland, Dorset.
The inquest at Winchester, attended by Jessica's grandparents, heard she was a happy girl who had been successful both in her ``passion'' of sailing as well as in her studies, in which she was a ``straight A'' student and she hoped to go to university to study science.
In a statement read to the hearing, her father Nicholas Eales expressed concerns that his daughter had been taking the drug Dianette, a hormone treatment for acne, which has depression listed as a possible side-effect.
He said that he had since asked the family's GP to ``yellow flag'' the drug which means to highlight the possible side-effects suffered by Jessica for further research into the medication carried out by the authorities.
Mr Eales said:
``Jess was taking Dianette that was prescribed to her four months earlier. From research it appears serious concerns have been raised about the serious and well-documented side-effect of depression.
``The family have asked that this drug is yellow-flagged as a result.''
Describing his daughter, he said: ``Jess was a happy girl who enjoyed her formative years doing all the normal activity associated with growing up.''
He said that sailing became the sport of her life and she excelled in her school.
He continued: ``Often described as academically-gifted, her achievements were the result of her dedication and sheer hard work.''
He said that she had described her success in Portugal as the ``best two weeks of her life''.
He described how Jessica enjoyed her birthday by taking her boat out to the Isle of Wight where she had a picnic with three friends and her family before going to a pizza restaurant in the evening in Lymington.
He said: ``It was noticed that Jess was rather quiet but this was put down to exhaustion after the day's activities.''
Friend and sailing companion Jess Hammett said in her statement that she had no idea why Jessica took her own life.
She said: ``Jess was a popular girl, at the sailing club she had a lot of friends. She was also very clever.''
Miss Hammett, who was staying with Jessica on the day of her death, described how she had formed her first relationship with a boy while in Portugal and had appeared upset that he had not contacted her during her birthday.
She said: ``Jess was happy and she said she had her three best friends with her. I could tell she was disappointed she hadn't heard from the boy and she kept checking her phone but she was still happy.''
Describing how Jessica's mother Annette became hysterical when the police arrived at their home to break the news, Miss Hammett said she could not explain her friend's actions.
She said: ``I couldn't believe it. Jess had been happy that week and the night before we talked about the future.
``Although she was sad she hadn't heard from her boyfriend the night before, she knew it wasn't serious because he lived abroad.''
Graham Short, coroner for North Hampshire, recorded a verdict that Jessica took her own life and said that he could not establish a link between the acne drug and her actions.
``I know the family is concerned about the drug Dianette. I have considered whether Jess was affected by that and whether or not it caused her to be depressed.
``I accept that there are reports of people taking the drug who have complained of depression and the leaflets issued by the manufacturers do give information about that.
``However, Jessica had been prescribed Dianette for over six months and had apparently been taking that without any indication of depressions and none of her friends or family seem to have noticed she had suffered from depression.
``I therefore cannot find a link between the drug and her action to end her life.
``I cannot establish what was in her mind, I can well understand her parents have been racking their brains to understand as well.
``However I think we shouldn't underestimate the pressures on teenagers, particularly high achievers like Jess and the sad part is that she felt unable to share these worries with her family and indeed her friends before she reached the decision to hang herself and it's a tragedy for all concerned, for the sailing community, her friends but most importantly her family.''
Following Jessica's death, tributes were paid to her by the sailing community.
RYA youth racing manager Mark Nicholls said:
``The RYA is aware of the sad passing of British Youth Sailing Squad member Jessica Eales.
``She was a young sailor who showed promising talent which can now unfortunately never be fulfilled. Our thoughts are with the family and friends at this sad and difficult time.''
Jessica was a member of Royal Lymington Yacht Club (RLYC) and the Hayling Island Sailing Club.
A statement on the RS Feva Association website said:
``Jess was a well-known and popular HISC/Royal Lymington YC youth sailor, and will be greatly missed.
``Jess was a leading light in the 29er fleet. Having progressed from the RS Feva fleet, she had recently been selected for the Isaf youth worlds, sailing an SL16.
``Our thoughts and hearts are with Jess's family and friends at this sad time.''