A family has paid tribute to their kind and caring daughter, sister, and partner, as a three-day inquest began into her death gets underway.

Ellen Woolnough, known to her family and friends as Ellie, died at her home in Ipswich in July 2022 at the age of 27.

Many members of Miss Woolnough’s extended family came together to write a ‘pen portrait’ to her, which was read before the court during the first day of the inquest on Monday.

Miss Woolnough, they said, had filled their lives with curiosity and fun, right from birth. She was the eldest of James and Lisa Woolnough’s two children, and “added a touch of sparkle wherever she went and made everyone who she spoke to feel special”.

Many a happy summer afternoon would be spent playing with her cousins in their grandparents’ paddling pool, or else raiding the dressing up box for costumes so that they could put on dramatic shows together for the adults.

Miss Woolnough's family said that her kindness grew as she did. Through the pandemic, she worked as a carer looking after elderly people, a service which was greatly appreciated.

James Woolnough, Miss Woolnough’s father, told the presiding coroner Mr Darren Stewart OBE that his daughter had struggled with her mental health since she six or seven years old.

Her struggles became more acute as she got older, and he said she would often place herself in dangerous situations. Miss Woolnough was variously said to suffer with anxiety and Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD), among other mental health difficulties.

However, she was not given access to any kind of formal therapy until her early 20s, and her father said that this amounted to eight hours spread over the course of 10 months.

In the months before she died, Miss Woolnough had been particularly struggling, having contracted first food poisoning, then Covid and then a vomiting bug. Physical illness always coincided with a downward turn in her mental health, explained Miss Woolnough’s father.

On July 19, Miss Woolnough had been in crisis, and her father had called her GP on her behalf. That afternoon, Miss Woolnough received a phone call from NSFT’s Crisis team, which was recorded.

The handler said Miss Woolnough would not receive a visit that day, owing to staff shortages. However, a visit was arranged for 11am the following morning.

At around 4am on July 20, Miss Woolnough asked her father to drive her back to the flat she shared with her partner in Ipswich.

The following morning, Mr Woolnough said he received a concerning message from his daughter's partner. He described leaping into his car and driving to their home as fast as he could, calling the police as he did so.

Once he had gained access to his daughter’s flat, he and Miss Woolnough’s partner discovered her.

The 27-year-old was taken by ambulance to Ipswich Hospital where she remained in intensive care for eight days.

Miss Woolnough died on July 28, 2022.

The inquest continues. 

If you need urgent mental health support, call NHS 111 and select option 2 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week.