Hitchin mother killed after being strangled by own seatbelt

A YOUNG mother of one was strangled to death by her own seatbelt, after her car flipped and left the road.

Cassandra Gittens-Bishop from Hitchin – known to friends and family as Cassie – died in the early hours of November 25.

She was driving along the A600 Bedford Road, when her car clipped the pavement and flipped over into a field, an inquest into her death heard.

Miss Gittens-Bishop, who was about to be diagnosed as bipolar by mental health specialists, had been drinking and was nearly three times over the drink drive limit, deputy coroner Graham Danbury said.

The 22-year-old, mother to a toddler, was said to have had a troubled life, suffering abuse when she was younger and struggling to come to terms with the stillbirth of her child.

She had gone out in her car following a night out with a man she met on a dating website, with a concerned neighbour raising the alarm after seeing her leave the house.

It was not until some hours later – about 7am – that she was discovered dead in the Ickleford field by a cyclist, who ran to the main road in a bid to alert passers-by to ring the emergency services.

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Ambulance crews, police and the fire service were at the scene shortly afterwards.

A statement from paramedic Matthew Bowler was read out in court.

He said: “The casualty was in the driver’s seat, the vehicle on its side in a field. The seatbelt was on, and the casualty was hanging down supported by the seatbelt on her neck.

“She had no shoes or socks on. On closer examination, I was satisfied she was dead.”

Police officers who gave evidence at the inquest said that the car would have flipped fully nearly three times after coming off the road, before landing on its side.

Miss Gittens-Bishop had failed to manoeuvre a bend correctly, they said, and as a result had steered her car too sharply, causing it to lose control.

The cause of death was put down to asphyxiation from the seatbelt catching around her neck. A post-mortem uncovered cuts on her neck where it dug in.

Mr Danbury said: “She was unconscious by the time the vehicle came to rest. She wouldn’t have known what was happening to her in her last moments.”

A verdict of accidental death was recorded.