THE life of a "sparkling intellect" ended in tragedy when she killed herself in a York Hospital, despite being checked on every 15 minutes, an inquest heard.

Marcelle Sanders, a 56-year-old teacher from Adelaide Street in York, was being treated for depression at Bootham Park Hospital when she put a bag over her head and suffocated herself in April this year, the inquest at New Earswick Folk Hall heard.

Coroner Donald Coverdale recorded a verdict of suicide on Mrs Sanders, who was described at the inquest as a "sparkling intellect and a devoted mother" whose brains impressed academics at the University of York.

Staff nurse Victoria Logan described how she shook after finding the body of Mrs Sanders - whose condition was deemed serious enough to warrant 15-minute checks throughout the day and night - while doing her rounds on the evening of April 18.

As she unlocked the door of Mrs Sanders' room, she felt a weight drop on the other side and the teacher's body fell to the floor.

A yellow bin bag had been tightly tied around her head with a silk scarf.

"I was talking to her, I was hoping she was still alive," said the nurse. "I tried to remove the bag and the scarf but my hands were shaking."

Despite emergency CPR by staff at the hospital and the arrival of paramedics, Mrs Sanders was certified dead and her body removed later that night.

Dr Stephen Reilly, a consultant psychiatrist at Bootham Park, said Mrs Sanders had been admitted to the hospital five times since 2000 for mental illness.

At times her condition was so severe it prevented her from eating or drinking, and she twice attempted suicide.

On other occasions, she told doctors she wished she would die from a terminal illness.

Mr Coverdale said he was satisfied Mrs Sanders - who left a suicide note - had died from suffocation caused by the bag over her head, although there was a suggestion she could have hanged herself.

Updated: 10:41 Tuesday, October 04, 2005