Coroner gives open verdict on Polish teenager found dead in school toilets

A coroner has recorded an open conclusion on the death of a Polish-born teenager who was found hanged in toilets at her school after complaining that she had been bullied and called a ''stupid Pole'' and told to ''go back to your own country'' by other pupils.

Dagmara Przybysz, an aspiring photographer who was looking forward to her year 11 prom and shopping for a dress, told her mother and her boyfriend that she was being taunted by girls at her school before she was found dead at Pool Academy in Britain on May 17, 2016.

One recent message from the sporty teenager to her boyfriend Lewis Simpson read: ''Not the best day at school, people saying things about me because I am from Poland. I don't even know their names.''

During a three-day inquest into the 16-year-old's death, Dagmara's parents criticised the school over the length of time - more than 90 minutes - it took to find their daughter after she went missing from class and questioned why incidents she reported to staff had not been recorded as bullying.

On Wednesday Cornwall Coroner Dr Emma Carlyon said that "although the evidence pointed to a self inflicted death" there was no other evidence that Dagmara had intended to end her own life, such as a note.

She said: "Although she was clearly upset in the previous 48 hours she was reportedly fine at school and she took her dyslexia test to help her in college.

"She was clearly enjoying the relationship with Lewis and was making plans for the school ball."

Dr Carlyon added there was no evidence of mental health issues "or any significant racism or bullying issues immediately prior to death although she had been clearly upset by incidents that occurred particularly on May 16/17".

Dagmara, who was about to take her GCSE exams, had a place to study photography at Truro College the following year but was concerned about doing well in her exams and worried she might have dyslexia, the inquest heard.

Statements from teachers, read out during the hearing at Cornwall Coroner's Court in Truro, described her as a friendly, happy, "lovely girl", with one teacher saying she had a fiery character and enjoyed playing football.

In a statement Dagmara's mother, Ewelina, said her daughter, who was a ''very beautiful lady'', got on better with boys and most of her friends, including her boyfriend, went to another school.

Mrs Przybysz said her daughter had been having a problem with one girl who had ''called Dagmara names''.

''I don't know exactly what was said,'' she said. ''This incident occurred only a few days before Dagmara passed away... I don't know whether these incidents were racist in nature; however, I can say that on several occasions she overheard comments such as 'stupid Pole'.''

She added: ''We think the biggest problem for Dagmara was not racism, but bullying.''

Lewis said Dagmara told him that other pupils made racist comments to her such as ''go back to your own country'' and he said: ''I think it got to her a little bit.''

However staff at the school, including assistant principal Lisette Neesham, said there was no record of Dagmara suffering from either bullying or racism which she said the school took very seriously.

CCTV from the school showed Dagmara entering the toilets at 12.14.

Her science teacher marked her as being absent, which the inquest heard should have sparked a series of actions resulting in Dagmara being found within 20 minutes or with the matter being escalated.

Detective Sergeant Steve Panter, who investigated the case, said there was no evidence such a search was carried out.

The alarm was raised more than an hour and a half later when two young pupils aged 11 or 12 spoke to staff co-ordinator Paula Hosking after using the facilities twice and realising Dagmara was still in there the second time.

Ms Hosking went to the toilets and called for help.

Ms Neesham and pastoral support worker and first aider Rodney Peasley were the two who answered the call.

Paramedic Christopher Taylor said they found Dagmara on the floor covered from head to toe in a blanket, with no evidence of any attempt at CPR, adding she was warm to touch.

The inquest heard staff members believed Dagmara to be dead when they found her and decided not to carry out CPR despite being asked to do so by the 999 call handler.

However Mr Taylor said he did not think the outcome would have been different if CPR had been attempted ''on this occasion''.

Both Mrs Przybysz and Dagmara's father, Jedrzej, became frustrated at times throughout the hearing and had several heated exchanges with staff from the school.

In one they questioned Ms Neesham why a conversation between their daughter and pastoral support manager Susan Kent the day before she died had not been logged on the system as it should have been.

The inquest heard Dagmara told Ms Kent said she had problems and was worried about her sister being bullied as she had been previously.

Mrs Przybysz said: ''She does not have to use that word (bullying). She does not have to know that word."

Ms Neesham said the school had a racism, bullying and homophobia log for the most serious incidents and Dagmara was not in it.

Less serious incidents reported to members of staff were logged in a different system she said, adding she could not explain why the conversation with Ms Kent on May 16, 2016, had not been recorded.

Mr Przybysz said the system did not work but Ms Neesham replied she did not think there was a problem with the system.

''As a school we take bullying, racism and homophobia really seriously,'' she said.

''You (Dagmara's parents) didn't as a family report any concerns about Dagmara.''

In a statement read out to the hearing, pathologist Dr Juliane Stolte, who carried out the post-mortem examination, said the cause of death was hanging.

Det Sgt Panter said: ''We have evidence that Dagmara spoke of incidents of being bullied and being made to feel unhappy but this was in a very non-specific way and we simply don't have details of the scale, frequency or have any real understanding of how significant these incidents were in Dagamara's decision on May 17.''

Asked if bullying or racism played a part in her death, Det Sgt Craig Daddow said: ''I am unable to say.''


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