Sasha’s inquest: thoughts from her mum

In April and May2019 I live-tweeted the inquest into the death of Sasha Forster. I gathered feedback after her inquest had concluded and when discussing the raw data with Angela, Sasha’s mum, we were struck by the concern for Sasha’s family and the fact that people weren’t aware that I had their explicit permission. I asked Angela whether she would feel happy writing something about their decision to allow me to live tweet and their experience of the inquest. This is what Angela had to say: 

When George raised the possibility of live tweeting Sasha’s inquest I was touched, honoured and rather surprised.  I couldn’t imagine that anyone outside of family and friends would be at all interested in the mechanics of our personal tragedy.

I had followed inquests live tweeted by George before and was impressed by her impartiality, her clarity – and stamina! It felt that she was providing a window into a world which most of us were ignorant of, a world that needed to be exposed. As a result, I was better prepared for Sasha’s inquest because of George’s tweeting, I had what I hoped were realistic expectations of the coronial process. I knew it would be tough, I anticipated difficult questions, but most importantly, I understood that witnesses would lie, fudge or twist facts and misinterpret information. I knew intellectually that it would be an emotional process, but I was unprepared for the enormity of the blunt force of raw emotions that hit us every single day.

I thought about it for a long time. Sasha was an intensely private person, very reluctant to discuss personal matters and I thought she would be horrified by all the information about herself that would be placed in the public domain. And yet, she was a great champion of what was right, very vocal about issues that she felt needed to be exposed, she was writing a book about her experiences in the mental health system and she had huge admiration for people like Renee Yohe and Jamie Tworkowski (Write Love on her Arms) Portia de Rossie (Unbearable Lightness) Susanna Kaysen (Girl Interrupted), all people who didn’t hesitate to highlight the issues and their experiences.

After a long tussle, and discussions not only within our family but also with our legal team, we agreed. One of the most important points for all of us, was George’s absolute impartiality, which we knew from past experience. Somehow it was vital that Sasha’s inquest story was told without influence from either her family or the mental health professionals involved in her care.

In agreeing to the live tweeting, I felt that Sasha would approve. She would prefer for people to know about what happened to her, to expose her treatment. She would want for people to listen, to try and understand, in the hope that they would learn, so that no one else would have to suffer as she did.

During Sasha’s inquest, we were recommended to keep off social media, which I found really difficult. Twitter is my support network and I felt cut loose without it. It did mean that I wasn’t aware of any of the reactions to George’s live tweeting, so I was grateful to George’s updates, and the supportive messages from well-wishers.

I didn’t know if the live tweets would live a real flavour of the atmosphere in the Coroners court or the attitude of the witnesses. Would Collette Griffin-Chapman’s distain be felt? Would Sarah Swan’s patronising disposition be perceived? Would the readers be aware of the policeman voice as it caught in his throat with emotion?

I need not have worried. I think it all came across very clearly, both the good bits and the bad.  I wanted Sasha’s inquest to be reported in all its grubby glory, with integrity and honesty, exposing not just the failings of the MH professionals but also the struggles and difficulties that we, her family, faced. I wanted people to be aware of the immense difficulties families face, day in and day out, not just dealing with the issues of living (and loving) someone with severe OCD, but also to have an understanding of how hard it is to function when sleep deprived and under the most extreme pressure.

Afterwards, I didn’t regret the decision to live tweet for a moment. I felt relieved, not just because it was all over, but because that was it, it was all out there, everything. I didn’t need to ‘hold’ onto it any longer and the burden of information was taken from me, leaving me free to grieve for the loss of my brilliant, sassy, loving, gorgeous girl.

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