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Schoolgirl, 14, who attended Windermere School, killed herself weeks after death of classmate

A schoolgirl who had been affected by the suicide of her bullied classmate took her own life just weeks after his death, an inquest has heard.

Fionnuala Ryan, 14, who attended the £30,000-a-year Windermere School in the Lake District, was found dead at her home in December 2019.

Cockermouth Coroner’s Court heard how one of her classmates, 14-year-old Pierre Dacosta Noble, had taken his own life just a few weeks earlier in November that year.

The court heard how Fionnuala, who was described as one of the school’s ‘shining stars’, had been affected by Pierre’s suicide, and went to see the school nurse in a tearful state following his death.

Fionnuala Ryan, 14, who attended Windermere School in the Lake District (pictured), was found dead at her home in December 2019

Mother Margaret Taylor told the hearing she believed Pierre had confided in her daughter about the bullying he had been subjected to.

He had been a victim of bullies who put faeces on his pillow and in his shoes before his body was found in the school, the court was told.

Ms Taylor told the court of her caring and much-loved little girl in a heart-wrenching statement.

She said: ‘She was my only child. She was my treasure.

‘She wasn’t spoilt, but she knew if there was anything she wanted, anything she wanted me to do, I’d move heaven and earth to make it happen.’ 

Coroner Andrew Tweddle asked the school about its response after staff became aware Fionnuala had made a ligature at the beginning of the week in which she sadly died.

The coroner’s court heard this act could have been a ‘cry for help’.

Detective chief inspector Furzana Nazir expressed her belief that quicker action should have been taken after the 14-year-old’s initial attempt. 

The court heard how Pierre Dacosta Noble had taken his own life just a few weeks earlier in the school grounds. Pictured: GV of Windermere School

The court heard how Pierre Dacosta Noble had taken his own life just a few weeks earlier in the school grounds. Pictured: GV of Windermere School

School nurse Susan Brown said Fionnuala had gone to see her in the aftermath of Pierre’s suicide and was upset and tearful.

Mrs Brown said: ‘She said she couldn’t understand why it happened.

‘She said she was worried that she would forget Pierre.’

Mr Tweddle recorded a verdict of suicide following a three-day inquest into her death.

An inquest into Pierre’s death in September last year also recorded a verdict of suicide.

The independent school has now appointed a full-time designated safeguarding lead following the deaths of two of its pupils.  

This is in addition to pre-existing safeguarding procedures. 

In a statement after the inquest, a spokesperson for the school described Fionnuala as ‘one of our shining stars’.

She had won a scholarship to study at the school, where she ‘flourished’.

The spokesperson said: ‘She was popular with her peers and demonstrated a care and regard for others often lacking in one so young.

‘The entire school community continue to mourn her loss.’  

They continued: ‘As part of a root-and-branch review of safeguarding policies, the school has purchased new software, called ‘My Concern’, so anyone can raise and log a concern which will immediately be shared with the safeguarding team and relevant pastoral staff.

‘We have 21 staff undergoing advanced safeguarding training, which will be completed next month, and we are restructuring the provision of pastoral care in the boarding houses so we have more cover in the evenings and weekends.

‘The safeguarding and wellbeing of the children in our care is at the heart of everything we do, and we continue to offer all the help we can to anyone who has been affected by these heart-breaking events.’

Windermere School is a 157-year-old independent, coeducational boarding and day school in the Lake District with 350 students.

For confidential support, call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch. See www.samaritans.org for details 


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