A FORMER Roedean girl took her own life after becoming obsessed with a mental health volunteer described as a manipulative predator, an inquest heard.

Cherry Oh Tenquist, 18, won a scholarship to the prestigious private school and was described as a caring, intelligent student.

She was expelled from the Brighton girls’ school when she was 14 due to her use of cannabis and later started using ketamine, cocaine and amphetamines, an inquest heard.

The teenager, who later attended Bhasvic college, moved into a YMCA home for vulnerable people in Hove in April 2021 after the relationship with her parents broke down.

Her father told the three-day inquest that the reason his daughter, an only child, wanted to leave the parental home was to facilitate her drug use.

Within months of moving into the YMCA she became fixated on weekend volunteer Stuart Hamilton West, who was spending hours with the teenager, the inquest was told.

Hamilton West, 35, was described in court by a care worker as a manipulative predator who did not document his meetings with the teenager and ignored appropriate boundaries.

The court heard he allowed an “unhealthy relationship” to develop, which the coroner said was a “serious lapse of judgment”, and “more than minimally contributed” to the teenager’s death.  

The YMCA’s failure to properly investigate increasing concerns from other staff members at the home regarding their relationship was also criticised by the coroner, Dr Karen Henderson.

She said this failure also “more than minimally contributed to the death of Cherry”.

The teenager died at YMCA's Lansworth House on September 21 last year.

The Argus: Hamilton West, 35, was described in court as a manipulative predator who did not document his meetings with the teenager and ignored appropriate boundariesHamilton West, 35, was described in court as a manipulative predator who did not document his meetings with the teenager and ignored appropriate boundaries


Hamilton West, an applied psychology student, was a weekend project worker with no professional qualifications.

He told staff he thought residents fancied him and acted the fool when confronted with his behaviour towards Cherry, the inquest heard.

Detective Sergeant Helen Paine of Sussex Police told the inquest police would be taking no further investigation into the incident.

YMCA staff said he was aware of Cherry’s vulnerabilities.

“I try not to push anyone away,” Hamilton West told the inquest. “It's not productive to not engage. It's the same for any resident.”

Asked about not making notes of his interactions with the residents, he said: “I would prioritise talking over writing notes.”

The court heard he was warned about his behaviour with residents several times.

Hamilton West said he asked for help.

“The advice given to me was to cover myself,” he said.

“It was just overwhelming. I wanted to talk to management. I would ask for supervision but I couldn't demand it.”

Asked if he thought his relationship with Cherry was inappropriate, Mr Hamilton West said: “I think that is ambiguous.

“More should have been done on my part. In retrospect, I would have changed my behaviour.”

On one occasion Hamilton West had a private meeting with Cherry in her room when she was described as being dressed provocatively. The court heard he gave her a foot message on the premises, while Cherry told a friend she once thought he had performed a sex act in the office upstairs.

He denied their relationship was sexual.

“We talked about authors and books,” he said. “There was nothing of that happening at any stage. Nothing of that nature and suggestions of that are purely speculative. The last time I saw her was when she asked for a meeting.

“She went upstairs. I asked her where she was going. That was the last interaction with her,” he said.

Asked by the coroner if he felt responsible for her death, Hamilton West said: “I don't know how I feel about that question.

“As a member of staff on shift that day, I don't think that influenced her, no.

“I was there for help and support and I made myself available.”

Friends said Cherry was clearly troubled and did not hide her drug use or self-harming. On the night she died she headbutted a wall, the court heard.

The teenager told friends she believed she was in a relationship with somebody called Stuart.

She told at least one friend the relationship was sexual, the inquest heard.

A close friend revealed text messages from Cherry saying she was going to end the relationship just before she died.

The Argus: The three-day inquest, held at Brighton Coroner's court, heard evidence from police, friends and Cherry's parentsThe three-day inquest, held at Brighton Coroner's court, heard evidence from police, friends and Cherry's parents

One friend said he believed Cherry was dependent on Hamilton West.

“She would talk about him a lot. I think it would be very fair to say she was dependent on him.

“Her feelings of isolation, having to push away one of the people she thought she could rely on due to an inappropriate relationship, was a contributing factor to deciding to end her life.

“If she had been supported in the way she should have been, this would not have happened.

“This was extremely avoidable,” the friend said.

CCTV from inside the YMCA showed Cherry’s last moments.

Her parents wept quietly as the footage was replayed in court.

The teenager turned to look directly into the security cameras as if she was looking for somebody to save her, the coroner said.

She was later found hanged in a communal room.

Dr Henderson struggled to contain her emotions as she read a statement from Cherry’s mother.

In a letter to her mother, Cherry said she wished she was still a child.

“She was and always will be my beloved child,” Mrs Tenquist said.

A toxicology report found the teenager had no alcohol or opiates in her system but did have traces of Diazepam, Bromazepam, Nordazepam and Citalopram, while the presence of amphetamine in her urine was an indication of its historic use, the court heard.

In her conclusion, Dr Henderson said she was satisfied that Cherry did not intend to kill herself.

She gave the cause of death as suspension.

She also asked the YMCA to submit an explanation by 4pm on July 28 of how the changes in their policy on safeguarding and appropriate boundaries for staff and residents since the death of the teenager had been disseminated before she would consider whether or not to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

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