Teacher unaware of dangers of life-changing program attended by Rebekah Lawrence

AAP, Australia/August 11, 2009

The teacher of a self-help course says he wasn't sure of the dangers inherent in the "life changing"' program attended by a woman who days later jumped naked to her death.

Rebekah Lawrence plunged to her death from the second storey of a building on Macquarie Street in Sydney two days after completing the Turning Point course, described as a "journey to the core of the human spirit".

The 34-year-old had undressed twice before climbing out onto a window sill, shouting "I love you", and jumping to her death shortly before 7pm on December 20, 2005.

Rebekah Lawrence: Self-help link to naked death leap

An autopsy found she had no drugs or alcohol in her system.

Richard Arthur was paid $3,000 to teach the five-day course which cost its 19 participants $695 each.

As the most qualified member of staff on the course, Mr Arthur had completed a couple of psychological courses as part of his Bachelor of Science in Computers and had attended the Turning Point course and others like it before leading the program.

He told Glebe Coroner's Court on Tuesday the intention of the course was to improve the quality of people's lives by "developing emotional maturity, intelligence and soulfulness".

It was only after Ms Lawrence's death that the potential dangers of the course became apparent to him, he said.

"Do you accept that what the course sets out to do is deliberately change a participant's state of mind?" counsel assisting the coroner Robert Bromwich asked.

"Yes," Mr Arthur replied.

"And do you accept that when you start dealing with changing any individual's state of mind there are inherent dangers in doing that?" Mr Bromwich pressed.

"In light of circumstances now, I'm unsure about the answer to that question," he replied.

Mr Arthur said that the often emotional course was not designed for "highly vulnerable" people.

He said it was important for participants to be screened but that process effectively asked people to "self-diagnose" any serious mental health issues they might have.

"I would assume that if there is a problem that they have been diagnosed by a medical adviser," he said.

The inquest before Deputy State Coroner Malcolm MacPherson continues.

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