An identical twin overdosed and died almost 15 years to the day after her sister killed herself following an allegedly abusive childhood that saw them both locked in a cupboard with dogs.
Petra Blanksby was just 19 in 2003 when she took her own life in jail after making more than 90 attempts to harm or kill herself.
Her sister, Kirsty, helped lead a public campaign on her behalf calling for better treatment of mentally-ill women – but was herself battling psychiatric problems and died last November after taking a cocktail of anxiety drugs.
Kirsty Blanksby (left) took an overdose last November almost 15 years to the day after her twin sister, Petra
This week, a coroner recorded a narrative verdict at her inquest in Blackpool, saying Kirsty had made a ‘serious attempt’ at self-harm but had not deliberately wanted to end her life.
She died in hospital ten days later aged 34 after developing pneumonia.
The Blanksbys were five when their parents divorced and they lived with their mother in Buxton, Derbyshire.
They were abused locked in a cupboard with dogs, according to reports.
When they were nine, social services were called and the twins sent to live with different foster carers. Both were admitted to hospital after self-harming incidents.
Petra later moved to a children’s home and gave birth to a child, but in December 2002 suffered a breakdown.
She was admitted to a psychiatric unit where she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.
She set fire to her mattress as a ‘cry for help’, but was charged with arson and remanded to New Hall jail in Wakefield.
Of the 130 days she was in prison on remand, Petra made 92 recorded attempts to kill or harm herself.
On November 19, 2003, she was found hanged in her cell and died five days later with Kirsty and their father Peter, a musician by her bedside.
Kirsty was described as a ‘beautiful angel’ by a friend, who added: ‘She died suddenly 15 years and one day after her twin sister Petra’
In 2004, an inquest jury ruled Petra should not have been in jail due to her illness and at the time Kirsty said prison had been used as a ‘dumping ground’ for her sister.
She said: ‘We were not treated as normal people. We can’t help it, it’s an illness. If someone has a broken leg, everyone runs about after them yet if you have mental health problems people ignore it because they don’t understand.
‘Petra was a wonderful mother and daughter, as well as a brilliant sister who always managed to warm the hearts of everyone around her. It is simply wrong that she was in prison instead of receiving the necessary and proper help for her deep-seated problems.’
She also went public about her own self harming adding: ‘The deeper you cut, the better you feel. It is a way of coping when bad things happen.
‘For Petra, it was a way of coping every day. You are hurting so much inside you can’t let it go unless you hurt yourself.’
This week the Blackpool inquest heard how Kirsty was well known to local mental health services.
Her family said she had been self-harming or taking overdoses for two decades but she always went to the hospital.
Last November 15, she took an overdose of an anxiety drug with a bottle of Lambrini and was admitted to Blackpool Infirmary, but was discharged after her boyfriend agreed to look after her.
Kirsty died in hospital of pneumonia
Ambulance crews were called to her rented home on November 25 after she collapsed.
In a statement her boyfriend Michael Walsh said: ‘She had taken an overdose but had walked out of hospital. I went to meet her and took her back to hospital where they said she could go home if someone was with her.
‘At home she seemed to be doing well but the chest infection came back and she became ill so I tried to take her to the walk-in centre.
‘I held her shoulders as we went down the steps and she went all faint, I went to sit her down, the ambulance worked on her for over an hour, she had asthma and the chest infection all that combined with the recent weight gain the impact was too much for her heart. ‘I’m sorry she was an amazing girl.’
Tests showed Kirsty had traces of several anxiety drugs in her system.
A post mortem report said the amounts were all below the level of fatality but her pneumonia put ‘extra stress’ on her body. Her cause of death was pneumonia and combined drug intoxication.
Dr Brijesh Desai, consultant psychiatrist at Blackpool Mental Health Team said of Kirsty: ‘She had mental health problems since age 14 there were attempts of suicide, she had emotionally unstable personality disorder.
‘In 2012 she was transferred to Blackpool mental health services after a move to the area but there were repeated attempts to self-harm.
‘She was discharged from a ward back to the community on September 11, 2018 but we said she was on too much medication and I was worried about interactions and risks with alcohol abuse.’
Post-mortem showed Kirsty (pictured) had traces of several anxiety drugs in her system
Dr Desai last saw her alive on September 11.
‘She didn’t want to harm herself anymore and wanted to get better,’ Dr Desai said. ‘She had a very good relationship with her landlady, who treated her as her own.
‘The risks of self-harm and suicide were discussed in review but she appeared positive about her future.’
Recording a narrative conclusion, coroner Alan Wilson said: ‘The pneumonia didn’t develop due to the drugs but she had ongoing respiratory issues.
‘I don’t find a fault with her discharge from hospital I think this illustrates some of the complexities that the medical professionals have to deal with in terms of mental health problems.
‘Whilst acknowledging all the difficulties an appropriate decision was made in all the circumstances.’
At the time of Kirsty’s death a Go Fund Me page was set up in her memory which raised £1,000.
A friend who posted it described Kirsty as a ‘beautiful angel’ and added: ‘She died suddenly 15 years and one day after her twin sister Petra.
‘Kirsty suffered with mental health issues her whole life yet she was such an amazing kind giving woman who her dad was extremely proud of and loved eternally.
‘She was loved by so many family and friends and she always knew how loved she truly was. She loved her family and friends more than anything.’
For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.