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PhD Student, 26, took own life after being taunted by ‘toxic bullies’ for not being ‘posh enough’ be

An 'exceptional' PhD student mocked for not being 'posh enough' hanged herself after being bullied at university, an inquest has heard.

Jessica Small, 26, who suffered from depression, was found hanged at her home in Canterbury on October 11.

An inquest heard how the state-educated student was mocked in the university laboratory for her accent and because 'she'd never been sailing'.

The anthropology and conservation student at the University of Kent had also been struggling with anxiety for some time, the Maidstone hearing was told.

Her mother, Lesley, told how Miss Small had been struggling with her thesis as well as a 'toxic' environment in the university laboratory.

She said: 'She really had such low self-esteem. She was questioning whether she should be doing the PhD.

Jessica Small (pictured), who suffered from depression, was found hanged at her home in Canterbury on October 11

A laboratory at the anthropology and conservation department at the University of Kent, where Jessica Small was studying for her PhD

'She was getting palpitations and having sweats to the point that she was getting panic attacks. She told me people in her lab made her life hell, that it was toxic.

'The underlying issue was that Jess had gone through state education and the others had gone through private education.

'She "wasn't posh enough". She put a lot of pressure on herself. She told me about being mocked for her accent and because she'd never been sailing.'

Police investigated allegations of bullying but after interviewing her colleagues found that while there had been past problems, these were later resolved.

Miss Small had been on antidepressants, and was undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy at the time of her death.

In a statement read by coroner Eileen Sproson, her mother added: 'I knew she was on antidepressants. If she had any real issues she would tell me.

'Jess had not expressed any suicidal thoughts to me. We were planning to visit her in Canterbury.

'The hotel was booked for the three of us. She was already looking forward to Christmas, which was her favourite time of year.'

Miss Small, who had already graduated with a first-class undergraduate degree along with a Masters from UCL, received a 'very prestigious' vice chancellor's scholarship to fund her PhD studies.

As part of her degree, she taught a number of modules to younger students.

An inquest heard how the state-educated student (pictured) was mocked in the university laboratory for her accent and because 'she'd never been sailing'

Her supervisor, Chris Deter, told today's inquest: 'She was a great teacher - I loved working with her. She was very good with the students, and she made them think.'

But Dr Deter grew concerned when Miss Small began frequently missing deadlines.

In April last year, Miss Small revealed she was suffering from depression and took a short break to recuperate.

But when she missed another deadline on her return to university, Dr Deter reached out to the university's wellbeing adviser, Stone Fitzgerald, and asked if he would attend a future meeting with Miss Small.

However, she failed to attend her next scheduled meeting with Dr Deter on October 8.

Colleagues grew concerned when she failed to turn up for several days, and eventually they contacted Miss Small's family in High Wycombe, while Dr Deter registered her as a 'missing student'.

Her parents rang the police, who broke into Miss Small's flat and found her dead.

It is thought her body had been there for several days. Pathologists gave the cause of death as 'suspension by the neck'.

Concluding the inquest, Ms Sproson said: 'Although there wasn't a suicide note, the evidence leads me to conclude that this was a deliberate act.

'For these reasons, I find that Jessica died as a result of suicide.'

A spokesperson said: 'The university remains deeply saddened by the death of PhD student Jessica Small.

'Jess was an excellent student with a first class degree in Physical and Biological Anthropology.

'She was also a graduate teaching assistant and was known for her exceptional teaching skills.

'The university, with the support of her family, is working towards setting up a teaching award in her memory.

'Our thoughts and condolences remain with her family and friends at this difficult time.'

To contact the Samaritans, call 116 123 or visit

Source: Read more from Daily Mail

My view: This is so sad, such a tragic waste of a young life. Bullies are a disgrace to the human race, they are the lowest of the low. If you witness anyone being bullied at work/school, report the incident immediately, don't be scared and don't be a bystander, stand up to bullies they are evil.

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