A 31-year-old woman died after plunging into a giant 80ft blowhole whilst on top of a cliff, an inquest has heard.
Laura Jayne Newcombe was having a walk with her partner at Trevose Head, Cornwall when she fell down the treacherous Round Hole – which is a huge circular hole in the cliff.
It was originally a sea cave before it slowly eroded away and the large hole, which is very close to the cliff edge, is not fenced off, CornwallLive reported.
An inquest into Laura’s death was held at Pydar House, Truro, today, which heard how no one saw Laura fall from the edge of the hole on June 29, 2021.
Witness David Green, who was on holiday with his mother, was taking photographs on Trevose Head when the incident happened.
“I could see that there was a huge hole to the sea,” he said in a statement which was read out in court. “I found the hole quite shocking.”
There have been debates over the years about whether it should be made safer or not.
David recalls seeing Laura very close to the edge of the blowhole.
He walked further to take pictures of the beaches, Constantine and Booby’s Bay and, when he came back, Laura was nowhere to be seen.
He phoned 999 when he and Laura’s partner both realised she must have fallen into the hole. The RNLI and the coastguard, including a rescue helicopter, attended the scene.
Laura was tragically found dead at the bottom of the Round Hole.
A toxicology report from Dr Stephen Morley of the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust confirmed that no alcohol or illegal drugs were found in her system.
She had not taken excessive amounts of her prescribed medication either.
A GP report from Dr Martin Priest, of Petroc Group Practice in St Columb Major, stated that Laura suffered episodes of poor mental health which she was being treated for.
In March 2021, she attempted to take her own life and subsequently took at least one overdose.
Several psychiatric assessments were carried out, during which she mentioned abusive or coercive behaviour from her partner.
She was also followed by a community mental health team which, according to her sister Tamara Milby, did “as best as they could”.
Michel Aubion, her partner, told the inquest that he had been helping Laura regain strength in the weeks prior to her death, following her suicide attempt.
They had been on walks every day for four weeks, which is why they were at Trevose Head that day.
“I didn’t actually see it, no,” he told senior coroner Andrew Cox. “She was fine. I had photographs literally minutes before of her with a smile on her face.”
DC James Winkett, the officer in the case, confirmed that there was no evidence of criminal behaviour or third-party involvement.
He said that, from the evidence he gathered, Laura had a low mental health at the time of her death.
“Laura, it is accepted, had some mental health issues and it is accepted that they had worsened during recent times particularly in March 2021,” Mr Cox said.
“After that time, there had been at least one – potentially two – overdoses.
“It’s right to note that there were social stresses in Laura’s life.”
However, Mr Cox reminded that for a coroner to rule that a death is a suicide, there must be direct evidence to prove intent.
“Suicide must never be presumed,” he explained. “We have no direct evidence.”
Unable to prove intent, Mr Cox recorded an open conclusion.
This does not mean it is a temporary, provisional conclusion, but that the evidence collected does not fully or clearly explain how the person died.
During the inquest, Ms Milby paid tribute to her sister, describing her as “amazing, beautiful and kind.”
“She was a fantastic friend, sister, daughter,” she said. “She would always go far and beyond for anybody.”