THE family of a woman who died after plunging from a bridge have not ruled out legal action against the health trust in charge of her care in the days leading to her tragic death.

It comes after failings were identified in the way Southern Health, that looks after mentally ill people across Hampshire, handled the death of Emma Connell who jumped 60ft to her death.

Last night, Ms Connell’s father said the trust had ignored the family’s concerns that she was a suicide risk, particularly given the 20-year anniversary of her daughter’s death.

On three separate occasions during the fortnight before her death, Winchester Coroner’s Court heard the 46-year-old had been found by police drunk, holding a knife to her throat, and even standing at the railings of Itchen Bridge, from where she subsequently jumped.

During the last stint in hospital she absconded, despite doctors raising concerns with the state of her mental health, the inquest was told.

Ms Connell was pulled from the River Itchen but died at Southampton General Hospital on April 13, from a hypoxic brain injury less than a month after moving to a flat in Albert Road South.

Recording a verdict of suicide senior coroner for south Hampshire, Grahame Short, said: “The mental health services were involved on one of the occasions and, whilst I accept the problems of alcohol dependency, they were not able to help Emma as they should have done. I find it unacceptable Southern Health have not submitted a report and there are lessons to be learned from this.”

Prof David Kingdom, a consultant psychiatrist and clinical services director for Southampton area mental health services, told Mr Short that Ms Connell showed no signs of suicidal thoughts when she was sober and they were unable to detain her under the mental health act when intoxicated.

“Suicidal actions are very common,” he said. “It’s then a question of whether or not it was serious enough to warrant mental health visiting. What had been become very clear was that alcohol had been the major issue of Emma’s problem. It’s a complex process.”

Mr Short said: “A decision was made that she was not at risk of her own life even though she tried to jump off the Itchen Bridge.

“In these circumstances does that not ring alarm bells?”

The inquest heard how Ms Connell, who had recently returned to the UK after living in New York for 28 years, plummeted over 60 feet from the bridge on the eve before Easter Sunday – the 20th anniversary of her daughter’s death.

In a statement read during the hearing, her GP Joanne Tatlock said Ms Connell had had a long history of alcohol dependency – thought to have been triggered after she buried her seven-month-old daughter who was born with a number of health problems.

Diana Hulbert, consultant in emergency medicine at the University Hospital of Southampton, treated Ms Connell on April 2.

In her statement she said: “The [access and assessment] team felt she was able to go home. I was concerned about her going because she lived alone and knew Easter was a difficult time for her and alcohol made her feel low. When I came back from bank holiday I was told she had died.”

Her death sparked a police appeal and saw a range of people come forward.

Statements from friends Dean Worsdell and Thomas Curtis read during the hearing confirmed they both heard a screech and a loud splash before seeing a dark figure in the water.

Louise Gregory was driving along the bridge and remembered seeing her in a dressing gown and pyjamas when she climbed the railings.

Louise Parker, Ms Connell’s cousin, told the hearing “she was a lost soul”.

“She was so ill you couldn’t approach her.

“Then the hospital admissions started.

“She was intelligent, clever but she was also very believable and could be quite manipulative.”

Ms Connell’s father Peter Stuart said: “Emma was identified as a significant suicide risk whilst under the influence of alcohol.

“Southern Health failed to take into account the very strong feelings of the family that Emma was a suicide risk, particularly as the Easter Sunday was a significant anniversary for her. as it was the 20 year anniversary of her daughter’s death and She had shown signs of severe mental stress and had discussed feelings of suicide with them.

“Southern Health ignored the family’s concerns and released Emma home with the guarantee of a phone call at seven o'clock that evening. The phone call never materialised and Emma tried to commit suicide four hours later.”

He said the family awaited sight of a further report as to Southern Health’s actions “before making a decision as to further action”.