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University science student, 24, killed herself with lethal overdose of caffeine

A ‘super intelligent’ university science student killed herself with a lethal overdose of caffeine after using her knowledge to research toxic levels, an inquest heard.  

Sophia Benning, 24, who had been battling depression, bought the powdered stimulant legally online after posting harrowing messages on social media site Reddit indicating she wanted to take her own life.

She was found dead in her Salford University student accommodation on March 19 last year after taking three times the fatal level of caffeine.

Ms Benning

Sophia Benning, 24, (pictured) who had been battling depression, bought the stimulant legally online after posting harrowing messages on social media site Reddit indicating she wanted to take her own life

A note said: ‘I’m tired of putting in this facade. I’m tired of putting on a fake smile when I’m emotionally dying.’

It emerged the stimulant packet she bought had no warnings about dosage or excessive usage

The Bolton hearing was told Ms Benning, from Telford, Shropshire had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but did well at school and college. 

She initially went to Sheffield University to study bioengineering, but left in the first year and enrolled on a three year a biomedicine studies course at Salford in 2016.

Her father, Jimmy Singh, said her daughter was at first ‘coping really well’ at university and was in the top of her year. 

She was last at home between July and September 2018 when she visited friends and did a week of work experience at a local hospital. 

But in the weeks before her death, her family became concerned about her not responding to their messages. 

They were then contacted by her boyfriend who became worried about Ms Benning’s mental health when he saw her posts on Reddit.

Miss Benning was found dead in her Salford University student accommodation last March 19 after taking three times the fatal level of caffeine powder

Miss Benning was found dead in her Salford University student accommodation last March 19 after taking three times the fatal level of caffeine powder

The Bolton hearing was told Ms Benning, from Telford, Shropshire had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome but did well at school and college

Ms Benning

The Bolton hearing was told Ms Benning, from Telford, Shropshire had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome but did well at school and college

One post said: ‘Before next week/by Monday. I’m ready to go. I have nothing left. I can’t stop thinking about suicide and NEED to go.’ Another read: ‘Last weekend here on planet Earth.’

Ms Benning’s sister Sarah took her to hospital on March 18 but she was discharged and advised to see her GP, the hearing heard. 

She spoke to a mental health nurse for an hour but refused to speak about what she had ordered online. 

Her father said: ‘The mental health nurse had said that these sort of things were trivialised – a lot of people buy things but don’t actually do anything with it. They see it as a comfort that it’s there. 

‘It was never established when it was ordered.

Ms Benning's sister Sarah took her to hospital on March 18 but she was discharged and advised to see her GP, the hearing heard

Ms Benning’s sister Sarah took her to hospital on March 18 but she was discharged and advised to see her GP, the hearing heard

‘I asked Sophia if she found the consultation helpful and she said she thought the nurse was hilarious. I just remember thinking that it wasn’t a jokey matter.’

Ms Benning was found dead in her halls of residence on March 19. 

The student was subsequently awarded a posthumous first class degree from the university.

Inquest coroner Alan Walsh recorded a verdict of suicide and said: ‘I have been a coroner sitting at this court for more than 18 years and this is the first ever death from caffeine toxicity which is a very unusual cause of death.

‘Sophia was a very bright and super intelligent young lady with a supportive family who did well on her university course and she had a lot of support from the people in her flat. 

‘The note she left in her room has a clear indication of intention. I find it extremely sad when somebody on the outside is happy when they are having these thoughts.

‘It was her choice she made it clear she didn’t want her family to feel any guilt. She wanted to carry out her intention and she wanted people to respect this as her intention. I am extremely saddened, she was 24, and a super bright, highly educated young lady.’   

Pathologist Dr Usha Chandran said she had been working for 25 years and had never seen another caffeine poisoning case. 

‘It affects the central nervous system, it can cause irritability and psychosis and can affect the heart and cause tachycardia,’ she said. 

‘It causes a person to go into a sleep and coma and sadly die. The caffeine was the only anomaly in her system.’ 

For confidential support call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details. 

Ms Benning (pictured in an undated photo) was found dead in her halls of residence on March 19

Ms Benning

Ms Benning (pictured in undated photos) was found dead in her halls of residence on March 19

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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