‘Perfectionist’ vet took her own life with animal drug, inquest told

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Rita Mesquita

A NEW FOREST vet described as a “perfectionist” committed suicide with animal anaesthetic because she feared she was not good enough at her job.

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Rita Mesquita (35) administered a massive dose of a sedative drug that she had taken from Seadown Veterinary Services where she worked.

She was found dead in a garden shed by her partner Caroline Cross, who was a veterinary nurse at Seadown, at the home they shared in Dibden Purlieu.

Giving evidence at an inquest held at Winchester Coroner’s Court, a distraught Ms Cross, who was previously married and has three children, told how her partner had been upset in the weeks leading up to her death because of problems at work.

Describing her as “really, really devoted” to her job and a “perfectionist” who often refused to leave work even if she had finished her shift, Ms Cross said she had become stressed on a ophthalmology course she was doing because she felt she was failing at it.

She was also upset the weekend before she took her life on Monday 2nd July this year  because she felt a consultation she had with a client – who was a work colleague – had gone badly.

Talking about the course which Ms Mesquita (pictured), who was born in Portugal, was taking in Cambridge, Ms Cross said: “She was hugely independent, a very strong character
but she was also really vulnerable.

“She got home really low and said ‘I’m not as good as the others, I’m not doing as well as the others’.”

Ms Cross said she also talked about how the other students would be boasting about their experience and making her feel inferior.

“I said, but this is like social media. They are not going to tell you bad stuff, this is just a rosy view.”

But Ms Mesquita continued to fret about the course even though Ms Cross described her as “one of the most amazing vets I’ve ever worked with, with the most incredible work
ethos”.

She added: “She was just a perfectionist. She’d be told to leave work and she’d stay there.

“She just had an amazing following of clients and a huge respect from her colleagues.”

Talking about the day of Ms Mesquita’s death, Ms Cross revealed she had been on a spa day with her eldest daughter which was her birthday treat.

When she returned home she noticed Mrs Mesquita’s car was on the drive and went to see if she was having a nap. When she discovered she was not, she assumed her girlfriend had gone out on her BMW motorbike.

But as she was taking the washing off the line she noticed the bike was there and then that the shed door was open when she had shut it that morning.

She went to see if Ms Mesquita was working in the shed and found her lying with a cannula
(thin tube) in her arm. The inquest heard that Ms Cross took her out of the shed and performed CPR until paramedics arrived. She was declared dead at the scene.

PC Bernadetta Faid, who attended the scene, said during a search of the shed she found a drip and a long tube. Ms Mesquita still had the cannula in her left arm and a piece of wood was near her.

Pathologist Dr Adrian Bateman testified that death was due to an overdose of phenobarbitone.

He said: “A sedative can be used in humans, sometimes as a barbiturate agent as sedative pre-med but is also used by veterinary surgeons to anaesthetise animals.”

The level in her blood was a fatal 185 mgs per litre.

Dr Bateman said: “The fact that the piece of wood was found suggests that she may have made an attempt to hold her arm straight. There was a drip present in her arm.

“So it suggests that it was administered by someone who knew, or was familiar with those techniques.”

In the past, the inquest heard, Ms Mesquita had suffered from recurrent depression linked in part to her devotion to her job.

A statement from her GP said she had been treated several times for depression and had attempted to hang herself several years before her death.

Describing her loss, Ms Cross said: “She brought fun into my and my children’s life and she was full of enthusiasm – everything she did she threw herself into.

“She was part of my family. My youngest daughter called her a second mum, my son thinks of her as his best friend and my eldest daughter called her mum as well.

“We called it our bubble where she would stop on a hectic day.”

Ruling the death as a suicide, assistant coroner Sam Marsh said: “It appears there was a longstanding battle with mental illness.

“She seems to love her job as a vet and be very devoted to that.

“Sadly I understand over the weekend prior to Rita doing what she did, you had a petty argument. But all couples have arguments and ups and downs.”

Talking about the means of death, the coroner said: “It would appear that Rita would
have the means and the knowledge of the drug and how to administer it, and it would appear that she knew what to do and potentially how much to take to have the desired effect.

“I don’t find anything to suggest that this was a stunt, or a cry for help.

“On the balance of probability I am satisfied that Rita administered the phenobarbitone herself, through the IV cannula that she had the means to access through the vets surgery and clearly had medical training in how to administer that.

“I’m satisfied that in doing so that, sadly, Rita intended to take her life.”

A statement from Seadown Vets described Ms Mesquita as “a very talented veterinary surgeon and loved by her colleagues and clients.

“Rita had a big personality and a real zest for life. She was a very unique human being. She had an endless capacity for love, both for her family, friends and work  colleagues but also for all the precious animals that she so lovingly cared for.”

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