THE tragic double deaths of a York teenager and her boyfriend have sparked condemnation of a book which may have encouraged the girl to take her life.

An inquest heard how the “very disturbing” and “irresponsible” book was found in the bedroom of Toni Haw, 19, of Gale Lane, Acomb, who died in February following an overdose of medicine and alcohol.

A second inquest heard how her boyfriend, Alan Hutchinson, 30, of Bishopthorpe Road, who struggled to cope with her death, killed himself just days after her funeral, overdosed on the same medication. A copy of the order of service at her funeral and a picture of her were found with his body.

York Coroner Donald Coverdale condemned the book as a “wicked publication.”

The book on “self-deliverance”, which was published independently by the author and available online, spoke of “methods to accomplish one’s own easy, peaceful and dignified death. It claimed to be intended for “rational suicide”, in the face of “unbearable and unrelievable suffering”, specifically for people with terminal illnesses who did not wish to be confined to a nursing home or hospital under palliative care. But Mr Coverdale said: “It seems to me that it can act as a clear encouragement for people who may be at a low ebb actually to end it all and take their lives.

“It is a very, very disturbing book and I am deeply shocked that it is possible to acquire a book like this.

“It has to be said that if Toni Haw had not had access to this publication, she may not have taken the overdose which ended her life.”

He said later that the book had been most explicit in its descriptions of various methods of committing suicide and the method used by Miss Haw to take her life had been mentioned specifically and graphically in it.

“I find it very sad that people who are in distress, possibly as a result of mental illness, are able to find comfort from a book that may encourage them to take their own lives.

“I find it alarming that the book is, presumably, freely available for purchase.”

Toni’s mother, Hilary Haw, backed the coroner’s comments, saying: “I think this book did have a significant effect on my daughter’s actions and am shocked that these kinds of publications can be so easily obtained.

“I feel the information contained in the book could possibly influence other vulnerable people to make bad choices.”

•The Press has not named the book at the request of The Samaritans.


TONI Haw had a history of stress and social anxiety and had been prescribed a variety of anti-depressant medication.

Her inquest was told she had also self-harmed and taken overdoses in the recent past.

Her mother, Hilary Haw, said in a statement that she had recently been feeling low but on the night of her death, February 27, they had chatted for some time and she had appeared to “brighten up”. Her daughter had been taking a course to learn sign language, and had recently returned from a visit to London with friends, which she had enjoyed.

She said that later that night, she checked on Toni before bed, and noticed her speech was slurred, then found several empty and half-empty packets of pills and an empty bottle of spirits. She called an ambulance to take her to York Hospital, but Miss Haw died in the early hours of Thursday, February 28. Coroner Donald Coverdale returned an open verdict, saying he could not be sure Miss Haw intended to end her life.


ALAN Hutchinson, 30, a kitchen porter, was found on the sofa at his flat in Bishopthorpe Road on March 23 with a note which emphasised the distress he had suffered since his girlfriend Toni Haw had died.

York Coroner Donald Coverdale told his inquest: “He death hit Alan Hutchinson very hard and he found it very difficult to cope with the loss.”

He said a copy of the order of service at Toni’s funeral and a picture of her were also found with him.

He said Mr Hutchinson had a history of alcohol excess and his body was surrounded by bottles of wine and vodka and cans of lager, and a medication package with 50 tablets missing, and tests showed an excess of the medication in his body.

“He was aware of the means by which Miss Haw ended her life and he had chosen to take the same substance to excess to end his life,” he said.

He concluded that Mr Hutchinson’s death was suicide.


Exit director backs book

Chris Docker is director of Exit, an organisation founded in 1980 to provide information on how to end one’s life “if faced with unbearable and unrelievable suffering”.

In such cases, the organisation views choosing to end your own life as what it calls a “least worst option”.

Mr Docker, speaking on behalf of the author, said the ability to make informed choices about one’s life was an important right, and it was “horribly sad if that right is abused”, by someone suffering with a temporary or long-term condition which could have been treated through medication or therapy.

He said: “People can be irrationally overcome at any age, and I think all we can do is slow them down a bit, have them take a deep breath, and think about it.

“I don’t think the book precipitates someone’s suicide or not having the book prevents someone’s suicide, and some letters we have had say it gives people the courage to live longer.”

Mr Docker said the book found in Miss Haw’s room was one of many available through several publishers around the world but, along with methods to effectively and painlessly end a life, it also contained information on groups and organisations she could have contacted while feeling suicidal.

He said: “Sometimes suicide can be prevented, and sometimes it can’t. This is something very sad, that a small proportion of teenagers go through, and decide, sadly, to end their life. It is very, very hard to accept, but it happens.

“There are other books that a person might get hold of, but if they do get one of ours we only hope they get through a reasonable amount of material that shows their depression, even if it’s the most terrible thing in the world for them, will pass.”


Concern from Samaritans

A spokeswoman for Samaritans said the organisation had worked with Google in the UK and Ireland to ensure their contact details came up whenever someone searched for suicide related information, but said books like this contained “harmful information”.

She said: “We know it’s a criminal offence to encourage or assist suicide in the UK. Publishing detailed information about methods of suicide, be it online, in print or in the mainstream media, can be extremely dangerous for vulnerable people as there is extensive research to show that ‘copycat’ suicide attempts are often made based on information people have been exposed to.

Anyone experiencing feelings of depression and contemplating suicide can phone York Samaritans on 01904 655888.