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Singer found hanging after mental health episode on train, inquest hears

Mina Topley-Bird was the daughter of Trip Hop pioneer Tricky and singer Martina Topley-Bird.

Mina Topley-Bird
Mina Topley-Bird

A talented singer was found dead in hospital after she had a serious mental health episode on a train following a gig with her band, an inquest heard.

Mina Topley-Bird, the 24-year-old daughter of trip hop pioneer Tricky and singer Martina Topley-Bird, was found hanging at West Park Hospital, Darlington, in May 2019, having performed with her band in Newcastle, days before.

An inquest in Durham was told she thought the gig with her band 404 had gone badly and believed people had laughed.

Trip hop pioneer Tricky (Ian West/PA)

Ms Topley-Bird was travelling back to her home in London when she had a psychotic episode and she got off the train at Darlington.

Friend and bandmate Brendan Murphy got off with her and tried to help, managing to get her to hospital after she tried to walk in front of fast-moving cars, the inquest heard.

He got her in a taxi and took her to the Accident and Emergency unit of Darlington Memorial Hospital where she grabbed a pen and tried to stab herself in the neck.

After she was assessed she was transferred to a secure ward at West Park Hospital in the town where she received treatment voluntarily, and was not detained under the Mental Health Act, jurors were told.

Outlining the case to the jury, Coroner James Thompson said: “She was well-travelled and clearly a talented young woman.

“She was a musician and a member of a band.

“She had sadly suffered from mental illness for some years.”

Martina Topley-Bird
Martina Topley-Bird was the talented musician’s mother (Ian West/PA)

Ms Topley-Bird had received treatment in the South West of England and London before she was under the care of medics in Darlington in the last days of her life.

She believed the gig in Newcastle had gone badly and people had laughed, Detective Sergeant John Tyers said in a statement.

The officer investigated her death and found there was no third party involvement, and said she had a history of self-harm due to mental health issues.

Staff members found her hanging in her room around 4pm on May 8 2019 and tried in vain to save her, the officer said.

Mr Murphy said in a statement that he realised she was not well after the Newcastle performance and her eyes were glazed and he tried to look after her.

On the journey back to London she was agitated, he said, and later told him she had tried to open the door of the moving train.

He got off with her at Darlington and called her grandmother who advised him to get her to the nearest hospital, where he said she continued to have a “severe psychotic episode”.

Mr Murphy said she had not been drinking or taking drugs and was proud to have been clear of them for at least a year, as she was aware of their effect on her mental health.

Jurors heard from Clinical Psychologist Dr Sonia Burrows, who helped Ms Topley-Bird deal with psychosis.

She said when Ms Topley-Bird was delusional she believed she deserved to die for the bad things she had done.

The coroner said the main topics of the inquest would be how Ms Topley-Bird came to be assessed at Darlington Memorial Hospital and her admission to West Park Hospital – run by the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys Mental Health Trust and which provides mental health care – as well as how information was shared with the South London and Maudlsey NHS Trust and what measures were taken to transfer her back to London.

The inquest, expected to last four days, continues.

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