Teenage Girl Killed Herself amid Fears She Would Be Branded Racist over Joke Photo She Sent Friends, Inquest Hears
Lydia Willgress, Telegraph, August 28, 2016
A talented teenage gymnast committed suicide after becoming concerned she would be branded “racist” after taking a joke photograph and sharing it with friends, an inquest heard.
Phoebe Connop, 16, uploaded an edited picture of herself where her skin tone had been darkened and she was wearing a scarf wrapped around her head to a private Instagram message, which she shared with friends.
Miss Connop, who had been speaking regularly to an Asian male, told the group it was what she would have to look like to get approval from her “boyfriend’s” parents.
The image was shared beyond the private group and Miss Connop feared their would be a backlash, the inquest heard. She died on July 7 after committing suicide at her family home.
Black Country Coroners Court heard on the day of her death Miss Connop had been working with her father Laurence, 53, to get some money for her summer holidays on July 7 this year.
He had taken her home early due to her feeling unwell but found his daughter hanged when he returned after work.
Five days earlier, the award-winning gymnast had posted pictures of her school leavers prom on her Facebook page.
Giving evidence at the inquest, which was held on Friday, Detective Sergeant Katherine Tomkins, from West Midlands Police, said: “From speaking to her friends in the weeks following her death, we discovered that the image had circulated further than she wanted it to.
“There had been some negative reaction and she confided in her friend, who did take the image down at her request, that she was scared of what the reaction might be from the Asian community in her area.”
The inquest heard Miss Connop, who lived in Halesowen, West Midlands, was a talented gymnast who had ambitions of becoming a midwife.
Her family found a “wish list” in her bedroom following her death, which listed that she wished to study at sixth form.
Mr Connop described his daughter as a “lovely girl who would never want to cause offence to anyone”.
“She had shown me no indication in the weeks leading up to her death that there was anything wrong, let alone anything that would lead her to do this,” he said.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, Black Country Coroner Zafar Siddique said: “This is an absolute tragedy for the family and I can’t imagine the pain and distress they are going through, as well as her friends.
“There is nothing I can say to help with the pain but I offer my sincere condolences.”
After Miss Connop’s death, a book of condolences was opened in the pupil’s honour at Windsor High School in Halesowen.
Stephen Lanckham, the headteacher at the school, said: “We in the Windsor community are deeply saddened by this sudden and tragic loss.
“We will remember Phoebe as a confident, warm and caring girl that was heavily involved in all aspects of school life.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Phoebe’s parents, family and close friends at this difficult time and we will offer all the support and care we can to help. Phoebe will be lovingly remembered by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.”