A BOARDING school student with a history of self-harm took her on life, an inquest has heard.

Denise Brittany Duay Bowers died at the age of 17 while studying at Dallam School.

Cockermouth Coroners Court heard Denise, who liked to be known as ‘Den’, had just started her third year after moving to the UK from the Philippines in 2020.

She was found by Nicola Wilkinson, a senior houseparent at the Heversham boarding site, around 5pm on September 26 last year after she had noticed she had not gone down for her evening meal.

In her statement read into the court record, Mrs Wilkinson described how her friends were concerned for her welfare as she had not been answering her phone.  

The court heard she was last checked on by Lesley Leadbitter, a medical officer at the school, at midday after she had been granted permission to work from her room, which was ‘not unusual’.

Rob Surtees, senior assistant and designated safeguarding lead at Dallam School, said it was not unreasonable to think Den should have been checked on beforehand.

He said: “I do not know why she wasn’t checked but there is no school policy on this.”

Headteacher Steve Henneberry issued a statement after the inquest.

It said: "Denise was 17-years-old when she died on Monday 26 September. She had been a boarder since September 2020 and had taken her GCSEs with us.

“Denise, or Den as she is known by her family, was three weeks into her first term as an A Level student. She had a close circle of boarding friends here and our staff cared for her deeply.

"At the inquest, the coroner acknowledged the openness of the school in providing information and documents and confirmed that no opportunities to prevent her death were missed by the school.

"In the year since Den’s death, we have put in place:

  • new boarding procedures and routines
  • our highest-ever staff-to-student ratios in the boarding house
  • a new head of boarding
  • a new position of boarding house medical officer who lives on site
  • a 3-year boarding plan taking us forward

"Our boarders bring a unique dimension to school life and make our school a great place to learn. We want them, and every student, to have the best experience here at Dallam.

“And we work hard as a school community to prioritise our pupil’s emotional health and mental wellbeing.”

The court heard Den was ‘deeply affected’ by the death of a friend who hanged themselves while they were on a holiday in Cyprus in April 2022.

She was also excluded for drinking on September 11 and was the only student to return intoxicated from a group trip to Blackpool on September 24, the court heard.

Mrs Wilkinson described her as being a ‘lovely, well-mannered and quiet girl’ but detailed how she looked ‘lethargic, thin and not full of life’ upon her return for the new academic year on September 7.

A toxicology report showed there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol found in her system.

The court heard she had been referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAHMS) on May 5 last year.

Extracts recovered from a notebook revealed how she was feeling distraught with her making references to not being good enough for somebody.

The court heard she wrote: ‘I think about him every day.’

Her sister Zoey first noticed cuts to her wrist when she was 13 or 14-years-old and explained how she ‘got into a bad crowd’ by doing cannabis and acid in her early teenage years.

Den required hospital treatment for a cut to her thigh after self-harming in April 2022 but the court heard there were no staff reports of concern at the school towards her mental wellbeing prior to her death.

Recording the cause of death as suicide, coroner Kirsty Gomersal said: “The school taking different courses of action would not necessarily have made a difference to this tragic outcome.

"It would not be safe to say that anything the school or the Trust did or didn’t do contributed towards Denise’s death to the standard required.

When she came back to school in September, she was pale, thin, subdued and in a fragile mental state.

“This was a deliberate act which had a degree of planning. Her door was locked which suggests she did not want to be disturbed and she knew there would be a period of time she would not be disturbed after lunch.

“She was incredibly bright, hardworking and well-liked by teachers and pupils. There is more about her life than how she came about her death.”

If you, or a young person you know, is not coping with life, has feelings of disappear or has been affected by this news Papyrus give confidential suicide prevention advice. Call 0800 068 4141 or text 07860 039967.

If you need someone to talk to call Samaritans on 116 123.