A verdict of suicide by opiate toxicity has been returned by the coroner investigating the death of Sarah Mulvey, the Channel 4 executive who died in January 2010.

Delivering the verdict at St Pancras coroner's court, Dr Shirley Radcliffe said that the case of Mulvey was "extremely complex" and that she suffered from "depression and elements of post traumatic stress disorder characterised by flashbacks and elements of personality difficulties".

This was combined with what the coroner called the "tragic element" of her "acute sensitivity to rejection or abandonment", which was in part triggered when she left a treatment centre in Essex, the Causeway Retreat, a few months before her death.

Mulvey, 35, died a day after she left the Drayton Park crisis centre in Camden where she was being treated following her four-month stint at the Causeway Retreat.

Radcliffe noted Mulvey's difficulties at Channel 4. Mulvey had instigated a grievance procedure against her employer which had been rejected and which she was appealing against at the time of her death.

"[Mulvey] referred to her work as an important part of her life," said the coroner in her summing up. "It was her life, it identified the person she was."

Mulvey's troubles at work contributed to what the coroner referred to as her "breakdown".

"It was clear that Sarah Mulvey was an exceptionally bright person with an extremely successful life and career," she said. "But it became clear that she suffered from some deep-seated psychological problems from an early age."

The coroner said Mulvey "consumed an extremely large dose of opiates", leading to her death, and that she was "satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that she killed herself".

Channel 4, which is not a party to the current hearing, issued a statement after the verdict on Wednesday: "Since Sarah's tragic death in January 2010 we have worked closely with the Mulvey family to support them and to celebrate Sarah's career and achievements. She was a valued employee and an exceptional creative talent whose death shocked and saddened everyone."

Earlier today the court heard how Mulvey had become "shattered" by an ongoing grievance procedure with the broadcaster. Mulvey joined Channel 4 in late 2006, with responsibility for commissioning for Cutting Edge, the First Cut new talent strand, and formatted documentary series.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Anne Bird, who treated Mulvey, said Mulvey's problems at work coupled with the termination of her four-month course of treatment at the Causeway Retreat on Osea Island in Essex had left Mulvey feeling "high and dry".

"I think her problems with her boss at work had been particularly difficult," Bird, who works with the Camden and Islington Mental Health Trust, told the second day of the inquest at St Pancras Coroner's Court on Wednesday.

Also testifying was another of Mulvey's clinicians, consultant psychotherapist Dr Luigi Caparrotta who treated her in the final few weeks of her life. He said: "The main thing she spoke about was her grievance against Channel 4 which was stressing her quite a lot."

Mulvey had initiated a grievance procedure against the broadcaster in April 2009 which had been rejected. She was on sick leave and preparing to appeal the decision when she was found dead at her home in Hampstead in January 2010.

Caparrotta, a Consultant Psychiatrist in Psychotherapy at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, said Mulvey was "deeply preoccupied" with the grievance procedure which he said "shattered her".

He also said she suffered "several flashbacks" that were linked with a previous case of "sexual abuse" that "escalated" over time.

Bird said she did not think Mulvey would take her own life. She described Mulvey as a "very gifted person" who "wanted to get better".

A previous coroner's hearing was abandoned because the coroner was replaced.

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This article was amended on 24 May 2012 to remove details of the method of suicide.



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