Scientist who helped in fight against HIV died after becoming too stressed with village life

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A retired scientist living in Wrestlingworth threw herself from a window after being over burdened with stress, was the conclusion of an inquest held yesterday.

Dr Sylvia Margaret Tisdale, 64, was a leading clinical virologist in her day, working on treatments for HIV and AIDS during its darkest period in the 1980s

But in her retirement, Dr Tisdale - known as Margaret - became enormously stressed by her duties as church warden and chair of the school governors at Dunton and Wrestlingworth lower school.

The inquest at Ampthill heard evidence that on April 29 Dr Tisdale had jumped from her bedroom window, landing on her garden patio.

She survived the initial fall and crawled from the patio to the edge of her garden lawn where she later died.

Her body was discovered by her partner Brian Dickinson that day.

Dr Tisdale’s sister Linda Foreman described her as a caring and compassionate person who had been keen to get involved in village life.

She said: “They should have had two church wardens but they couldn’t get anyone else and gradually she was promoted to chair of governors.

“I did find when I spoke to Margaret in the last year or two, she had been very tired and exhausted by it.

“She was aware she had too much commitment, but it seemed no-one else was willing to take anything on. I think they did take advantage, because she was very careful and very meticulous.

“You just felt she was losing the fun side of her life”

Mrs Foreman added that she believed her sister has suffered from anxiety and stress, rather than depression.

Senior Coroner Tom Osborne expressed the view that Dr Tisdale regarded giving up her responsibilities as a failure, which the family did not dispute.

Her partner Brian said: “In her profession, she was always in a position that required a great deal of attention... like many other people I was urging her to pace herself, take more time for herself.”

A statement was also read her GP, Dr Laurence Drake of Potton Medical Centre, who paid tribute to Dr Tisdale.

He said: “She was a very sensible lady, a pillar of the community who took on voluntary work after she retired.

“I recall her mentioning that she had a lot on her plate, with being church warden and head of governors.

“She admitted to feeling rather stressed due to the many commitments. She realised she had a lot of responsibilities in terms of fundraising, I had a long talk with her.

“She was a really decent person, a real asset to the village who will be greatly missed.”

Originally from Powys in Wales, Dr Tisdale had last worked at Stevenage Hospital which was how she had came to live in Wrestlingworth.

Coroner Tom Osborne said: “I’ve received information and evidence of Margaret’s position within the village.

“I’ve heard the evidence that this probably began to impact upon her stress levels.

“Maybe she was fearful that she couldn’t carry out these duties to the high standards she had always set herself.

“It seems to me as a direct result of the level of stress because of the level of commitment, for some reason she decided that they were too much for her.

“In view of the circumstances, it couldn’t be that she fell. I believe that she did intend to fall and take her own life. The conclusion I reach is that Margaret has died of suicide.

“It seems to me that whatever overtook Margaret that day, the person who took her own life was not Margaret - she’d been overtaken by stress. I’m sure all the family and friends have many happy memories of Margaret.”