Katie Madden took her life at the age of 32, leaving behind four beloved children. Here, her mother, Bernadette Sutton tells DONNA-LOUISE BISHOP how her daughter's life unravelled after a series of devastating blows

As a young child, Katie Madden was a mathematics whizz and had dreams of becoming a mental health nurse.

She was like any other girl, enjoying time with her mum and pursuing hobbies in martial arts and singing.

Her mother, Bernadette Sutton, describes her as “lovely, kind, caring, and polite – a bright girl”. 

But when she turned 12, everything changed. "It was as if a switch had been flipped," Ms Sutton recalls.

It was then that Katie went from being happy and bubbly to becoming withdrawn and fearful of others.

Years later, her mother, who lives on the outskirts of Norwich, discovered her daughter had been sexually assaulted. It was this devastating act which had left her reeling and transformed her young life.

By the age of 16, Katie had moved out and it was agreed she would be placed in the care system, living with an older couple.

She was still 16 when she finished school and became pregnant with her first child.

Motherhood was a role which gave Katie purpose and happiness, her mother says.

Despite her troubles growing up, Katie went on to forge a life for herself and became a devoted mother to her four much-loved children.

Her relationships with the children's fathers did not last, but the children themselves were her absolute world.

“She lived for them,” Ms Sutton explained. 

“Katie was quite a private girl, but she was happy in her own life with her children doing the things that mothers do for their children.  

“She would play with them like she was a kid and would just engage with them. She spoilt them. They were her world.” 

For many years, Katie enjoyed a stable family life at her home in Lowestoft as her earlier mental health struggles faded into the past.



Tragically, though, her life was to undergo another shocking and sad twist, from which there would be no recovery this time.

She began a relationship with a man which the inquest into her death would later describe as "toxic" and her mental health deteriorated again.

Eastern Daily Press: Katie MaddenKatie Madden (Image: Supplied by family)

She attempted to take her own life and called police during another mental health crisis.

Soon afterwards, she agreed that her children could be placed into the care of her mother.

The challenges of this 'toxic' relationship were compounded when she was contacted by police to tell her that her partner had an abusive past.

Officers passed on this information under something called the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, or Clare's Law.

It was introduced 10 years ago after a campaign by the father of Clare Wood, 36, who was strangled and set on fire by an abusive ex-boyfriend in Salford in 2009.

The disclosure was made at a time of acute stress for Ms Madden, as the relationship was coming to an end and as she tried desperately to have her children returned to her care.

Despite making efforts to have them returned to her, social services deemed her too “inconsistent” for this to happen.

That news and the Clare's Law disclosure dealt devastating blows, Ms Sutton says, and ones for which there seemed little support from agencies to help her recover.

As her world seemed to be unravelling she sought help but found little.

Just weeks later, she was found by a friend hanging at her home in Bonds Meadow, Lowestoft. She was 32.

Eastern Daily Press: An aerial view of Lowestoft, SuffolkAn aerial view of Lowestoft, Suffolk (Image: Archant)



This lack of support - particularly in the light of the Clare's Law disclosure - was highlighted at the recent inquest into her death.

The coroner, Nigel Parsley, was so concerned that he issued a Prevention of Future Deaths report, to ensure lessons could be learned from her death.

In stinging comments at the inquest he pointed out that the authorities and agencies that were supposed to help Katie - social services and mental health services - seemed remarkably uninterested in the fact she had received a Clare's Law disclosure and had been the victim of domestic violence herself.

While her children had a social worker looking out for her, she did not - something Mr Parsley found surprising.

“The state knew that Katie was at risk because they delivered a Clare's Law disclosure to her and yet throughout this inquest, I've barely seen it referenced," he said.

“I’ve barely seen any professionals treat Katie as more vulnerable because she is in a toxic relationship, one in which we know domestic violence has already occurred. With someone with Katie's mental health issues, that is invariably going to make her more vulnerable.”



For Ms Sutton, who works in the NHS, these were welcome words - but came tragically too late to make a difference to her daughter.

She had seen Katie's struggles for support from mental health organisations and social services up close.

“Because of her mental health, she’d have times where she’d be on a bit of a rollercoaster ride but, eventually, she was able to live a fairly normal life," she said.

“I feel she managed because she had to; because of the children. Once you took that away from her, then everything collapsed because she had no purpose. It made her more vulnerable.”

Ms Sutton described how she had warned professionals about her daughter's vulnerabilities just days before she died. 

“Ten days before Katie took her own life, I raised the alarm. 

“She was frantic, saying she felt like she was going crazy, that she felt hopeless, worthless, and barely knew how she was even managing to survive,” she added. 

“I outlined my concerns to certain professionals. Nobody listened. Nobody.

“Katie so desperately needed therapy and she knew it. Unfortunately, she was denied that by services despite trying her best to get the help.”  

Her inquest gave a glimpse of a Kafkaesque world for those looking for help.

The family court, which was dealing with the care of her children, requested that Katie undergo a psychological review.

This recommended she would benefit from a course of cognitive behavioural therapy which is not routinely available on the NHS.

Instead, she had to apply for funding. This involved requests to the Legal Aid Board, Integrated Care Board (Individual Funding Request), Wellbeing Service and Social Services.

None provided the funding, with each suggesting contacting one of the other agencies.



Ms Sutton claims a lack of communication between different agencies and services led to her daughter’s downfall. 

She said: “I did my best, but it mainly fell on deaf ears.  

“Even though I don’t have my daughter, and nothing’s going to bring her back and it’s a huge loss for our family, I still must remain positive that if she can make change for others then so be it.  

“In regard to Clare’s Law and domestic violence, it’s just shocking in this day and age that this is still happening. 

“Victims need to be understood. That’s what I am trying to get across.  

“There are certain people, professionals, who just don’t get that bigger picture.  

“The bigger picture with Katie was never explored. They never looked into how her mental health affected her social, physical, psychological, and emotional needs.  

“No one was interested. Only me – who was always there to pick up the pieces as any mother would. 

“It's just horrendous. Katie struggled every day with her mental health.   

“How are you expecting someone as vulnerable as Katie, with all those underlying mental health issues, to cope? How is she expected to get better with no help, no advocate, nobody to support her?  

“I did try. I always hit a brick wall.”  

Eastern Daily Press: Suffolk Coroner's CourtSuffolk Coroner's Court (Image: Newsquest)

Ms Sutton went on to describe a system “broken beyond comprehension and belief” and said without communication "everything would break down”. 

She added: “I think services have forgotten how to communicate properly and that’s probably due to pressures and everything else that all government services are facing.  

“I think sometimes every service needs to strip back to basics and learn from its mistakes. Whatever is happening within their services, they need to try and rectify it as quickly as possible.

“It just seems to be that you’re reading it every day – failures, failures, failures, failures.  

“There are too many people, not enough money, not enough people manning these services. Everyone's caseloads are just beyond what they should be.  

“I feel sorry for a lot of professionals because they are juggling caseloads like they should never do. It’s just become the norm now. 

“I know if I asked services for help for her, they would have said ‘sorry, there’s no money in the pot’ because that’s what we’re always told.”



Paying a final tribute to her daughter, Ms Sutton said: “Kate was a very, very bright girl, but she did not believe in herself – which relates back to her mental health. Her confidence in her abilities was knocked out of her.   

“She was a bright bubbly girl and I think she did amazingly well considering what was going on in her own mind. She was amazing.” 

Do you need support? Samaritans can be reached on 116 123. The NHS First Response Service is available on 111 option 2.    

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  • Do you need support? Samaritans can be contacted 24/7 by calling 116 123. Alternatively, the NHS First Response Service can be reached on 111, selecting option 2.