The last photo Amanda ever took of Sharlie was of her with her beloved horse Slim
The last photo Amanda ever took of Sharlie was of her with her beloved horse Slim

TRAGIC: Mother’s fight for inquest after losing her daughter

THE lone fig tree on her mother's property was a special place for Sharlie Flynn, with memories of family camps and fires under the stars.

This was also the place where she would spend her final moments, before taking her own life as the demons which she had battled for years finally won the war.

She was only 16.

"That tree was very special to her. It was a place where she was happy," her mother Amanda Hall said.

Sharlie's death was a tragedy in every sense of the word and it will haunt her family forever.

But, worse still, is Amanda's belief that it could have been prevented.

Her only daughter, Sharlie was Amanda's "little girl" - a "very content and peaceful baby".

She loved animals - whether it be bugs, butterflies, ducks or dogs.

When the family moved to their Blenheim property Sharlie fell in love with the sheep and cattle on the land. But most of all she loved her horse Slim, and he loved her.

"Only Sharlie was allowed on Slim's back … they had a unique relationship," Amanda said.

The last photo Amanda took of Sharlie was of her on her beloved Slim.

 

Amanda remembered Sharlie as a “very content and peaceful baby”.
Amanda remembered Sharlie as a “very content and peaceful baby”.

A tragedy in the making

But her life was also full of sadness.

Between 2013 and 2014, Sharlie was diagnosed with mental health issues, and she also started to experiment with drugs and began self-harming.

With her parents divorced, she was living with her father on the Gold Coast. In 2015 she moved to her grandparents' house in Laidley and eventually back to her mother's home at Blenheim in 2016.

In February of that year, Sharlie was admitted to Logan Hospital in the Mental Health Ward for self-harming.

She was given a safety plan to help her manage situations that upset her.

In March, Sharlie's GP referred her to the Ipswich Hospital for further management of her suicidal thoughts.

Following this, for several months it seemed as though she was on the mend, with Amanda taking time off work to care for her.

She was off the drugs and had even enrolled back into school.

But on her 16th birthday, Sharlie was given a $50 note as a present - that night she disappeared from her mother's home.

"I believe that she went and used that $50 to buy drugs," Amanda told police in her witness statement.

This began a downhill spiral for Sharlie, who sank further into the clutches of a methamphetamine addiction.

Amanda said she would regularly disappear for days at a time, not telling her mother where or with whom she was living.

She would begin appearing at Amanda's house at all hours of the night, coming down off drugs.

"I saw at times her eyes were like saucers and she had a number of involuntary motions such as licking her lips and rubbing her face," Amanda said.

Notes and drawings that Sharlie made spoke graphically about her desire to die.

"Why do I have to do this, live my life for the torter (sic) of this hell. I would like to run free behind my eyes, my heart in the clouds, my soul at home … Just let me be free," she wrote in one note.

Amanda said her daughter became overt in her desire to end her own life.

"She would often tell me that she planned to kill herself and that no-one cared about her or understood what she was going through," she said.

The last photo Amanda ever took of Sharlie was of her with her beloved horse Slim
The last photo Amanda ever took of Sharlie was of her with her beloved horse Slim

Nightmare made real

On January 22, 2017, Sharlie was staying with her mother again.

At about 2.30pm, she and Amanda had a row over her mother refusing to buy her cigarettes, but Amanda believes this was an excuse to get into town and buy drugs.

In response Sharlie became "violent and aggressive" and began swallowing any pills she could get her hands on, barricading herself in the spare room.

Panicked, Amanda called triple-0 for help - which further upset Sharlie, who took off running down the rural road their property was on.

She was found by police and ambulance officers and transported to the emergency department of Ipswich Hospital.

While she was cleared of an overdose, a doctor from the Ipswich Hospital's mental health emergency department agreed with Amanda's concerns and transferred her to the Logan mental health ward.

Despite this, Amanda was told they "did not know how long they could keep her at the hospital as they did not have the resources".

During her brief stay at the hospital, Sharlie refused to see loved ones when they visited.

She was discharged on January 24, just two days after her previous suicide attempt.

Three days later, Amanda packed her car with her dogs and headed down the road, intending to buy groceries in Gatton.

She never made it that far - spotting a figure under the fig tree, and immediately called triple-0.

"I knew it was Sharlie," she said.

"It was clear she was gone. She looked exactly how she used to draw herself, hanging, in her suicide notes a year earlier."

Just five days had passed since she was rushed to hospital for attempting suicide.

An autopsy would reveal Sharlie had high-range methamphetamine in her bloodstream.

 

Amanda with the tribute to Sharlie where she took her own life. Picture: Dominic Elsome
Amanda with the tribute to Sharlie where she took her own life. Picture: Dominic Elsome

The aftermath

Nearly three years have passed since that tragic day, but the pain is still raw.

What makes it worse is Amanda's belief her daughter should never have been able to leave Logan Hospital.

Despite Amanda repeatedly stressing her concerns to staff that Sharlie was struggling with addiction and still intended to kill herself, she was told Sharlie needed to be a voluntary patient.

Amanda believes Sharlie should have been kept at the hospital as an involuntary patient.

"Would she not have been safer in hospital with qualified staff and appropriate treatment?" she asked.

Amanda, a theatre nurse herself, believes her daughter should never have been allowed to make the decision to leave the hospital.

"As parents, we weren't allowed to say what was best for her anymore. She didn't want to see us because we were trying to get her off drugs," she said.

While she believes the way addiction is treated in children needs to change, she doesn't think Sharlie should have been able to leave the hospital voluntarily.

"She could have been saved. And maybe she still would have killed herself in six months' time," she said.

"But in that moment, in that scenario, she wasn't in a right mind to make any decisions herself."

While a coronial investigation into Sharlie's death is ongoing, Amanda is pushing for the coroner to open an inquest into the circumstances leading to the death of her daughter, in the hopes of changing the system for the better.

"There are very few places for kids that are like Sharlie," she said.

"I want there to be the right teams treating these kids so they might see their 17th birthdays."

 

 

Amanda with Sharlie before her death.
Amanda with Sharlie before her death.

 

The response

Queensland Health declined to answer specific questions put to them by the Gatton Star, with a spokesperson saying "as this matter is subject to a coronial investigation, we are unable to publicly release details relating to these events".

The spokesperson however issued a statement.

"The loss of life by suicide is a tragedy, and one that has a significant impact on friends, families and the community," the spokesperson said.

"As this matter is subject to a coronial investigation, we are unable to publicly release details relating to these events.

"An internal investigation was conducted and there were three recommendations that have subsequently been implemented. The investigation and recommendations have been provided to the coroner to assist with their investigation.

"Queensland Health is committed to improving the lives of those with mental health conditions, through significant investment in prevention, treatment and awareness."

Anyone needing help can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.