There was “no indication” to friends, family and colleagues that an army gunner had suicidal thoughts or intended to take her own life, an inquest has heard.
Sophie Madden, a 23-year-old mother-of-one originally from Wigan in Lancashire, was found dead in the shower block of the Saint Martin’s Plain Army Training Centre in Folkestone, Kent, on June 10 2022.
She was a gunner in the third Regiment Royal Horse Artillery of the British Army and had been on a night out with friends and colleagues the evening before her death, visiting a number of Folkestone pubs and playing pool in the bar on the barracks before heading to bed at around 1am on June 10.
Ms Madden was seen heading towards the shower block shortly after, but this was considered normal as she often showered before bed.
The next morning at around 9.30am a colleague went to the shower block and saw Ms Madden’s belongings on a bench outside her preferred cubicle. She looked under the door and saw Ms Madden’s legs, which raised the alarm, and once the cubicle door was opened it was found Ms Madden had hanged herself.
A police investigation summed up in a report by Detective Sergeant Andrew West of Kent Police found there were no signs of third party involvement or criminal activity.
The inquest heard there is no evidence she was expecting anyone to come in to the shower block and did not tell anyone she was feeling in any way suicidal, or made anyone aware of any issues when she went in.
Ms Madden had no ongoing physical health issues, according to her GP, and she was not known to local mental health services.
She had been placed on a “vulnerability register” by the Army in 2020 after she was seen hitting her head against a wall after drinking alcohol, but after two years of observation and weekly check-ups she was removed from the list in 2022.
Colleagues said there were rumours Ms Madden had self-harmed and had a “difficult upbringing”, and in 2020 she was the victim of an alleged assault by the father of her son Jayden – however she declined to support a prosecution.
One of Ms Madden’s four sisters, Chantelle, spoke to her just hours before she took her own life and in her police statement said the news of Sophie’s death was a “total surprise” and that Ms Madden was “so well loved”.
She said Ms Madden had claimed she was stressed that her phone was broken and she did not have the money to fix it, and also that she was facing a bill for damages caused by her pet dog at her previous Army accommodation.
In a statement, her sister said: “Sophie was a strong, independent woman, and didn’t tend to worry about things. I told her I’d send her some money and a spare phone the next day, but I didn’t have any concerns for her safety or mental health.”
There was no note or any evidence to suggest premeditation, but coroner Katrina Hepburn returned a verdict of suicide at the inquest held in County Hall, Maidstone on Monday.
The coroner explained: “I’m satisfied it was Sophie who did the act … and there is no evidence of anyone else being involved.
“I have to consider whether Sophie intended to take her own life or if it was a cry for help. There is no evidence she was expecting anyone to come in and didn’t tell anyone she was feeling in any way suicidal, or made anyone aware of any issues when she went in.
“I am satisfied she did in fact intend to take her own life, and satisfied all other scenarios have been ruled out. Therefore a conclusion of suicide is needed on the balance of probability.”