Death leap following self-help course for Rebekah Lawrence

The Daily Telegraph, Australia/August 12, 2009

After finishing self-help course 'The Turning Point', Rebekah Lawrence left a distressed late-night phone message with an untrained, unqualified course volunteer, an inquest heard yesterday.

"I've just had a really awful experience surrounding death," the inquest heard the 34-year-old had said in the message shortly before 4am on December 20, 2005. "I'm just so open, I feel I may be too open."

That night at 7pm, the woman described by family and friends as shy and modest leapt naked to her death from a CBD office in an apparent psychotic state.

Details of Ms Lawrence's last days were revealed at the inquest as those who ran the intensely emotional weekend course admitted to having "inadequate" processes to screen people for mental issues before they began and to check up on them afterwards.

"We agree that it is inadequate," the CEO of the company running the course John Geoffrey Kabealo told Glebe Coroners Court. "I'm very concerned about the screening process and we are putting things into effect."

Counsel assisting the inquest, Robert Bromwich, asked: "Even the arrangements you've got now are inadequate?"

Mr Kabealo replied: "Yes."

Mr Kabealo said he had spoken to Ms Lawrence about 5pm on the evening she died "and with all my experience I couldn't pick up that there was anything going on."

Asked if this was because he lacked the qualifications to detect Ms Lawrence's true state of mind, Mr Kabealo replied: "It's a possibility."

He said that 25 years and 40,000 customers after the course began, the company was considering hiring a registered psychologist to oversee students' mental states before, during and after.

The man who ran Ms Lawrence's course, Richard Norman Arthur, agreed the screening process - a two-page questionnaire - had failed Ms Lawrence but he added she may have had a pre-existing condition. "I think there was a certain vulnerability with Rebekah we weren't aware of," he said.

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