Talented pupil dies after 'fear of food'

SHE was a bright, highly ambitious girl who was one month away from fulfilling her dream of going to Cambridge University.

SHE was a bright, highly ambitious girl who was one month away from fulfilling her dream of going to Cambridge University.

But the outwardly confident and gregarious Charlotte Robinson was struggling with a “morbid terror” of food and an obsession with exercise which would cut her life tragically short.

In the space of five months, the 18-year-old lost more than a third of her body weight as she plummeted to less than six stone and was so weak she had to be carried by her father.

Yesterday, her parents Pauline and Chris relived their daughter's rapid demise during an inquest into her death.

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Miss Robinson, of Worsted, near North Walsham, contracted pneumonia when she was too fragile to fight any infection and died at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital on August 8 last year.

Less than a fortnight later, her family learned she had achieved four As at A-level.

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The hearing was told she had developed an obsessive compulsive disorder at 15 and was prescribed an anti-depressant which she later described as a “miracle drug” because it helped calm her compulsion to touch and check things.

But she began to experience difficulties with food in December 2006, was diagnosed with anorexia the following May and was rapidly losing weight as her A-levels approached.

By June last year her weight had plummeted from about nine stone to six and a half, putting her at a “critical” body mass index (BMI) of 13.7, when the healthy range is 20 to 25.

She was assessed by a mental health nurse at her GP surgery, but staff absence and annual leave meant she was not seen by her again for another month - a system which the inquest heard had been altered since.

Speaking of their next meeting in July, Amanda Frost said: “She told me she was having difficulty getting up stairs, which would indicate her muscles were beginning to waste away, but was still trying to exercise and do sit-ups.”

She added that Miss Robinson was still reluctant to go for hospital treatment because she had “plans for the summer”, but gave her permission to look into a referral at a specialist anorexia clinic.

She continued to lose weight and on July 20 was referred to the independ-ent Newmarket House clinic, where she was seen by consultant psychiatrist Dr Jonathan Wilson. Her weight had dropped to 39.2kg, or six stone, and she was having only a couple of sips of soup a day.

“She was desperate for help and very relieved to have found help,” he said.

“She called herself ambitious, there was a lot she wanted to do and she didn't know where to start. She was a perfectionist and quite hard on herself, she was completely focused on her work.”

A gradual re-feeding programme began, but Miss Robinson became ill with diarrhoea and was admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich.

Consultant in gastroenterology Dr Crawford Jameson said her BMI was then close to 11 and she had lost nearly 35pc of her body weight in the past five or six months.

She was given 500 calories a day through a nasal gastric tube, appeared to be responding well and was even fed orally with help from her mother.

But by early August her breathing became laboured and a chest X-ray revealed she had bronchial pneumonia. She was put on respiratory support in intensive care and given antibiotics but died on August 8.

Greater Norfolk Coroner William Armstrong is expected to reach a verdict when the inquest resumes today.

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