Bulwell woman's bully trauma led to suicide

A WOMAN who took her own life was depressed because of a long delay in dealing with an allegation that she was bullied in her job, an inquest heard this week.

Susan Woodward (53), of Sankey Drive, Bulwell, was found dead in her car on Bulwell Hall Park by a member of the public on the morning of Friday September 22.

An inquest was told that a post mortem showed she died from a combination of tablets, including Paracetamol.

Mrs Woodward worked for Nottingham City Homes, the company that runs Nottingham City Council's housing stock.

Shortly before her death, she was sent a letter from City Homes about a report which revealed that friends and colleagues could not support her bullying claim.

She died only a week before a hearing was to take place into her complaint.

In a note left by Mrs Woodward to her parents, she wrote: "Don't be sad. I am glad to be out of the bullying."

She added that the City Homes report was 'what she expected.'

Recording a suicide verdict, Nottinghamshire Coroner Dr Nigel Chapman criticised an 18-month delay in dealing with the allegation.

But Jan Phillips, a management consultant contracted to the council, told the inquest that the investigation was carried out in a "very thorough and conscientious manner".

She said she was unhappy about the delay but could not see any alternative to the way the investigation was pursued.

Mrs Woodward worked for City Homes as an operator in its alarm call centre.

Her husband, Michael, told the inquest she had worked for the city council for 30 years before taking up her last job in 2002.

He said she loved her work but went off sick in February 2005. She was treated by her doctor for depression and refused to go out. But she later perked up and they went on holiday.

Mr Woodward said that on September 21, his wife seemed "a bit subdued" and quieter than normal but she told him nothing was wrong. She was not at home when he returned from work and he contacted the police.

Audrey Rolfe, a friend and ex-colleague of Mrs Woodward, was also a witness at the inquest.

She said Mrs Woodward told her in May that she felt particularly distressed because the investigation was taking so long and she had been getting "awful feelings" like suicide.

Mrs Rolfe had told her: "My God, Sue. We have all been there" and she seemed happier at the end of the conversation.

On Monday September 18, Mrs Woodward phoned her friend and was "absolutely over the moon" because she had got an appointment for a new job with the courts, dealing with prisoners, the inquest heard.

Vincent Bryce, the investigating officer for Mrs Woodward's complaint, said he conducted a detailed internal investigation.

He obtained evidence from a large number of witnesses to allow for full and proper consideration of the matter.

Rod Stair, service manager of City Homes, said Mrs Woodward was a cheerful, friendly and reliable member of the staff.

When she made her bullying complaint in April 2005, she wanted to resign but he dissuaded her so that the issue could be followed through properly.

Mr Stair said there were various complications with the investigation, during which Mrs Woodward changed her union representative.

He told the inquest he visited her home three times during her illness to see if he could do anything to help her. "I always tried to be sympathetic," he said.

Pc Dean Richards said Mrs Woodward's body was found laid back on the driver's seat of her Ford Fiesta car in Allcock's Wood, next to Bulwell Hall golf course, with a pen and notebook in her hand. There were no suspicious circumstances.

Recording his verdict, Dr Chapman said: "It is not for me to try to determine who was right or wrong in any investigation.

"All along, my only comment is that despite reasons given for the delay, it is a terribly long time from April of one year to September of the next – far too long.

"I accept there there are procedures to go through but, even then, one would have expected the investigation could have been pushed through a lot quicker. All this time, Mrs Woodward had the issue hanging over her head."