Woman died after walking into sea and drowning

A WOMAN who suffered from schizophrenia drowned after walking into the sea in St Leonards, an inquest heard this week.

Victoria Smith, of Priory Road, was spotted by a group of German students on May 28 last year in the early evening.

Witnesses said the 58-year-old appeared ‘very unsteady’ before walking into the sea.

An inquest on Tuesday (January 28) heard Miss Smith suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and believed she was being watched everywhere she went.

In a statement, one of the students, Vivienne Horn, said she was on the beach with her friend and the rest of her language class looking for her friend’s mobile phone when they spotted Miss Smith.

Vivienne said: “She (Miss Smith) simply went straight into the water and was fully clothed.

“When we turned around later she was lying in the water with waves crashing in her face.

“I felt very frightened by all of this because it was strange how a person could walk straight into the sea clothed.”

Her teacher went to tell fisherman Robert Ball about the discovery of Miss Smith’s body.

Mr Ball contacted Dover Coastguard and police and paramedics were called to the scene.

Miss Smith was spotted on the beach at the west side of the harbour arm in Marine Parade, St Leonards at around 5.30pm.

Police tried to resuscitate her before paramedics arrived and took over. But she was pronounced dead.

Her mother, Rita, of Priory Road, said her late daughter had suffered from mental health problems most of her life and was on medication for her illness.

She said: “I first noticed she was talking or muttering to herself when she was 12.

“Vicky would talk about people who she thought were picking on her and I thought she had a degree of paranoia.

“When she was 17 she worked at a toy shop and left saying a member of staff was picking on her.

“In 1989 she and one of her cousins moved to London and that was the last I heard from her for 16 years.

“I knew she ended up living in a bedsit for a while but I had no way of contacting her.”

Mrs Smith added her daughter, who never married, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was 50 and had been sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

Miss Smith was living with her mother at the time of her death last May.

Her mum added: “Vicky was convinced people were watching her everywhere, in the bathroom and even inside the television.”

Mrs Smith told the inquest her daughter sometimes had ‘funny turns’ and had such an attack on the evening she died.

She said: “I was in the kitchen and she told me she wanted to get outside and be on her own.

“Later I realised she had gone so I phoned my nephew and then the police.

“Six months before she died I felt she was plotting something. She would often cry out saying she had had enough.”

Coroner Alan Craze concluded that Miss Smith took her own life while the balance of her mind was disturbed.

He said: “It was clear she was suffering from an intractable and incurable schizophrenia and there is no doubt whatsoever that she went into the sea deliberately that day.”