An Oxford University academic has died by suicide

Her body was found next to a container of cyanide

A young Oxford University chemistry researcher poisoned herself with cyanide in her flat in January, an inquest has heard.

Erin Shepherd had just started as a paid academic in the chemistry department, having completed her DPhil in chemistry at Corpus Christi College.

The researcher emailed suicide notes to her parents and both her sisters on the day of her death. Sophie Shepherd, Erin’s sister, called the police to Erin’s flat in East Oxford after she received the email with the subject “I am so sorry.”

Miss Shepherd had just started as a paid academic in the Corpus Christi College chemistry department

Miss Shepherd was found by firefighters who forced their way into her flat. Her body was found next to a container of white powder that was later identified as cyanide.

At the inquest Detective Sergeant Kevin Parsons, of Oxford CID, said: “She had struggled with her gender identity for most of her life.  She was doing well and showing no signs of unhappiness.”

The Oxfordshire coroner, Darren Salter, also described her suicide as a “great shock”, adding “those closest to her did not foresee this.”

He continued: “Things seemed to be going in the right direction. Very sadly, something caused her to decide to take her own life.”

Richard Baskerville, Miss Shepherd’s doctor also gave evidence.  His statement read: “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 changed her name and was in the process of taking speech therapy to help ease her transition.  Baskerville said that she had shown “no signs of unhappiness.”  He also told the court about Miss Shepherd’s struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, which left her unable to attend school as a teenager, but did not stop her academic achievements.

The university’s statement released on her death praised Miss Shepherd as “an outstanding chemist” whose death had “greatly saddened” her friends.

University of Oxford