Prison worker's death was accidental

A CLIMBING expedition ended in tragedy when a Suffolk prison worker - one of three to die in a heartbreaking sequence of events - plunged down a rockface to her death, an inquest heard.

A CLIMBING expedition ended in tragedy when a Suffolk prison worker - one of three to die in a heartbreaking sequence of events - plunged down a rockface to her death, an inquest heard.

Jacqueline Donnelly, 32, of Framlingham Close, Sutton, travelled to Derbyshire with colleagues from Warren Hill Young Offenders Institute in Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge.

An inquest into her death, held yesterday, heard that it was her first taste of outdoor climbing, her previous experience amounting to three months scaling an indoor climbing wall.

The venture was led by fellow prison worker Richard Self, a qualified climbing instructor from Saxmundham, who committed suicide two days after the tragedy.


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Mr Self, 53, was found hanged from a pylon in a field near his home, despite colleagues reassuring him that he was not at fault for Mrs Donnelly's death.

He had been troubled by the death of his partner, Caroline Burnham, 48, who also worked at the prison.

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She hanged herself at her home in Kesgrave, near Ipswich, last May, and police believed the climbing accident was “the last straw”.

Robert Littler told the Chesterfield inquest they completed six climbs of varying difficulty at Stanage Edge and Yarncliffe Quarry on September 4 last year.

They returned the next day and Mrs Donnelly led an afternoon climb, pausing on the rockface to have her photograph taken by friend and work colleague Josephine Davies.

“Jackie started to climb back down and then got stuck and said she couldn't get a foothold,” stated Mr Littler. “Her foot scraped against the side of the rock and she shouted that she was slipping.

“She was beginning to panic. I ran to the base of the rock to get underneath her. Her feet slipped and she was holding on by her hands and then she fell.”

A nurse hiking in the vicinity tried to revive her while the party waited for an air ambulance, paramedics and Edale mountain rescue team to arrive and take over.

But Mrs Donnelly had suffered major skull fractures and was declared dead at the scene almost an hour later.

Pathologist Dr Donesh Taraaporewalla gave the cause of death as multiple head injuries.

Mrs Donnelly's husband for 11 years, soldier Peter, said his wife was fully committed to everything she did, adding: “If I could sum up Jackie in a word it would be 'amazing'.”

Deputy North Derbyshire Coroner Nigel Anderson recorded a verdict of accidental death.

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