An Oxford University chemist poisoned herself with cyanide after telling her family and friends she was transgender, an inquest heard.
Erin Shepherd took her own life despite being apparently pleased with her transition from man to woman, Oxford Coroner’s Court was told.
The 27-year-old was found dead in her flat in East Oxford after sending a suicide note via email to her parents and two sisters.
The researcher was found by firemen who forced their way into her flat, after shutting down the whole street alongside police and paramedics.
She was discovered near a container of white powder, which was confirmed as cyanide.
Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter described her suicide in January as a “tragic case'”, adding: “This was a great shock.
“Those closest to her did not foresee this. Things seemed to be going in the right direction. Very sadly, something caused her to decide to take her own life.”
Mr Salter read evidence from Miss Shepherd’s doctor, Richard Baskerville, who said she registered in 2015 under her former name, David Shepherd.
Mr Baskerville’s statement added: “She had recently come out as transgender. She had an extensive circle of friends and was pleased with her progress in transitioning. Her death was a sudden and tragic event.”
Miss Shepherd had completed her DPhil in chemistry at Corpus Christi College and had recently started as a paid academic in the chemistry department.
She had changed her name and was taking speech therapy to adopt a new identity.
Detective Sergeant Kevin Parsons, of Oxford CID, said Miss Shepherd accessed the university labs at 6am on the day she died, and it was likely to be around that time that she took the cyanide. At the inquest, he said: “She had struggled with her gender identity for most of her life.
He told the court how Miss Shepherd was unable to attend school as a teenager after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, but worked hard to achieve.
Police were called to Miss Shepherd’s home by her sister Sophie Shepherd, after she received an email entitled ‘I am so sorry’.
The court heard she rang her sister urging her to flush the cyanide down the toilet, to no avail.
The university released a statement that said Miss Shepherd was “an outstanding chemist” whose death “greatly saddened” her friends.
Mr Salter concluded Miss Shepherd died of suicide.