Inquest hears deceased student was harassed by tutor

A BPhil student who committed suicide after breaking up with her boyfriend last year had been subjected to harassment by a Philosophy tutor at Pembroke, an inquest has heard.

The body of Charlotte Coursier, a graduate Philosophy student at St Edmund Hall, was found by her housemates at her home in East Oxford on 10th June last year.

A coroner told the inquest that the student received “crazy and rambling emails” by from Dr Jeffrey Ketland.

The University has since been criticised for their handling of the harassment. One member of staff questioned the University’s decision not to immediately suspend Dr Ketland after the allegations were brought against him.

A spokesperson for the University told Cherwell, “The University takes allegations of harassment very seriously. Members of staff are made aware of the University’s policy on harassment and their responsibilities under it.”

It has also been alleged that the University’s advice to Coursier when she reported the harassment was “not to go to the faculty on days when he was lecturing”. The University responded that it was unable to comment on individual cases.

The University said it had conducted a review into the incident in October. A spokesperson commented, “Its purpose was to inform senior members of the University of the circumstances of Charlotte’s death and to advise on any future steps. The findings of the review remain confidential but University is continuing to consider the most appropriate action as a consequence.”

Dr Ketland and Coursier met at Edinburgh University where they had a sexual relationship. Coursier moved to pursue postgraduate studies at St Edmund Hall in October 2012. Ketland also came to Oxford soon after, taking up a lecturing position at Pembroke College.

When contacted by Cherwell, Pembroke declined to comment on the allegations.

Coursier began a relationship with Ben Fardell, from London, three months before moving to Oxford. Coursier received an email from Dr Ketland on 7th May, to which she replied “politely”. Despite this the emails she received reportedly became “crazed and rambling”.

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According to the inquest, Dr Ketland reminded Coursier that he saved her life when she overdosed on paracetamol in Edinburgh. Fardell said in a statement, “He thought he saved her life in Edinburgh and in doing so, he managed to destroy his own.”

“She went to see him in a professional capacity to seek help and advice. His abuse of her made an already fragile girl even worse.”

Coursier reported Dr Ketland to Thames Valley Police, who issued him with a warning under the Harassment Act.

During the inquest, Fardell suggested that his relationship with Coursier had undergone a number of problems. In a statement he said, “In the first six months there were issues of trust and commitment in the relationship.

“But Charlotte was much better in the new year. Then, in February, she discovered she was seven weeks pregnant despite taking contraception.” Coursier subsequently had an abortion on 25th March.

According to Fardell, “She was very low for weeks after this and she found it very difficult to get over having murdered her child, as she put it.”

Professor Keith Gull, Principal of St Edmund Hall, told the Oxford Mail, “Charlotte was an outstanding student, well-liked by her friends, and is still greatly missed in our college community. Her death was a tragedy for her family and friends and our thoughts continue to be with them.”