A jewellery expert from Antiques Roadshow died days after being restrained by five paramedics and police officers following suspected postpartum psychosis, an inquest has heard.
The psychotic episode that struck Alice Gibson-Watt, 34, resulted in delusions so severe she believed her five-week-old baby was communicating with her telepathically.
The inquest at west London coroner’s court that began on Tuesday is being held to determine the cause of her death in November 2012 several days after being taken to hospital.
Gibson-Watt was a jewellery expert at Sotheby’s who had appeared on the BBC1 antiques show. Her husband Anthony described to the court the “deeply traumatic” events of 13 November, when his wife began crawling on the floor and screaming that her daughter had died, despite her being alive.
She had given birth to Chiara, her first child, the previous month and was thought to be suffering from postpartum psychosis, which can cause hallucinations, paranoia and delusions. The condition affects about one in 1,000 mothers.
PC Sue Thomson was one of those who helped to restrain Gibson-Watt in the ambulance that attended the couple’s home in Fulham, west London.
The officer said in evidence on Wednesday that the mother, who had been strapped down with restraints across her chest and legs, was screaming so loudly that talking to the paramedic was difficult.
“She was thrashing from side to side and I was worried she could harm herself or those trying to help her,” Thomson said. She joined other personnel in the ambulance to help restrain Gibson-Watt, along with her mother Miranda Phillimore.
At one point Thomson said it appeared Gibson-Watt was “trying to bite out at someone’s arms”. After arriving at accident and emergency at Chelsea and Westminster hospital, she was given a sedative that calmed her.
Thomson said she then had a “normal conversation” with Gibson-Watt before she told her “she could hear the baby speaking to her and it was saying to her that it was dead”.
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Miriam Barrett, of the North West London mental health trust, told the inquest on Wednesday that in a meeting with Gibson-Watt at 6am on 14 November she “appeared quite rational and normal, but underneath she was showing in her thinking there were delusions”.
“She was convinced that she was communicating with her baby and the baby could communicate with her,” Barrett said. “The baby was part of her delusions and that is where the risk arose.”
She said during the meeting there was no sign Gibson-Watt was in pain or discomfort from any possible injury to the abdomen.
PC Thomson told the court that at no time did she see anyone touch the patient’s chest or abdomen. She had used “calm, even pressure on the shoulders and knees” to restrain her.
Other officers who gave evidence also said they did not see any of those restraining Gibson-Watt touching her chest or abdomen, or touching her in a way that could harm her or injure her liver.
After being assessed at A&E, Gibson-Watt was taken to a mental health unit at west Middlesex university hospital in Isleworth. There she suffered a cardiac arrest and it was then decided she required urgent surgery after a tear was found on her liver that had caused serious internal bleeding.
Gibson-Watt was transferred to an intensive care unit at Kings College hospital in south London, where she died on 20 November 2012.
The inquest is expected to continue until late April.