The woman driven to suicide by the Da Vinci Code

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  1. By GORDON RAYNER: 16th March 2007

    A painter fascinated with best-selling conspiracy thriller The Da Vinci Code committed suicide after becoming convinced she was the subject of a real-life murder plot.
    Caroline Eldridge, 38, moved to Italy to pursue her interest in Leonardo Da Vinci, but her mind became "muddled" by the mysteries surrounding his work, her father said.

    [​IMG] Her parents believe her mind became muddled

    Caroline Eldridge, a Da Vinci scholar and artist, who killed herself after becoming obsessed with the mysteries surrounding the artist and the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code

    She suffered paranoid delusions that she and her family were in danger "because of the knowledge that she had" of Leonardo after working on an exhibition about his paintings.

    After repeatedly telling her family, "I'm not going to let them take me alive," she took an overdose of paracetamol.
    The Da Vinci Code, which has sold more than 60 million copies, centres on a sinister plot by Catholic organisation Opus Dei to kill the book's hero Robert Langdon before he discovers, via clues in Da Vinci's paintings, that Christ was married to Mary Magdalene and had a son.

    Her parents believe her mind became muddled

    On Friday Caroline's father, retired headmaster Roger Eldridge, said: "She was particularly interested in Da Vinci's interpretation of perspective, and because of that interest she had read The Da Vinci Code.
    "The nature of the illness that she had would create fear, and the Code itself, I think it did create a muddle in her mind in terms of fears.
    "She was very fearful for her own safety and she felt that because of the work she had been doing and because of the knowledge that she had, she had put us in danger.
    "She had put herself under tremendous pressure with work and I think that pressure and stress was to blame for the paranoia."
    Caroline, a graduate of the Wimbledon College of Art, worked for years as a costume designer for the English National Opera on productions including The Magic Flute and Medea, and later went freelance.
    But her passion in life was painting, and during a trip to Venice to stay with a friend in 2004 she got a job working on a six-month exhibition about Leonardo.
    One of the visitors was Professor Rocco Sinisgalli, a Renaissance art specialist from the University of Rome, who struck up a conversation with Caroline and asked her if she could help him translate a book he was writing about the artist Leone Battista Alberti.

    She agreed to do it in return for the chance to attend the professor's lectures on art, and moved to Rome where she found work designing costumes for an opera festival.
    Whilst there she continued to study Leonardo, and had a particular interest in his famous Vitruvian Man drawing, which features on the cover of The Da Vinci Code. A dying murder victim in the Dan Brown novel also arranges his body in the shape of the drawing as a complex clue for investigators.
    Prof Sinisgalli later dedicated a book on Vitruvian Man "To the painter Caroline Eldridge" and sent her parents a copy with a note saying Caroline "had always shown a deep interest in this particular drawing and in Leonardo himself".
    Caroline, who had no history of mental illness other than a brief battle with anorexia as a teenager, had what her father described as a "paranoid attack" whilst in Rome, and he flew to Italy to bring her home.
    "She was working long hours, designing costumes and trying to get the book translation finished, and she rang us in a state of considerable panic and we realised that she wasn't well," said Mr Eldridge.
    "I was in Rome by 10am the next day.
    "She was very distressed and fearful for her own safety. She was so frightened that she wouldn't get on the plane, but I managed to bring her home in the end."
    Actors Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in a scene from the movie based on the novel

    Mr Eldridge and his wife Susan referred Caroline to a doctor and she was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and sent to a psychiatric unit at Wotton Lawn hospital in Gloucester.
    A month later she was discharged and went to live with her parents in the Cotswold village of Edgeworth, near Cirencester.

    But Mr Eldridge said his daughter's paranoia continued. "She was receiving care in the community but because her fears were so real to her she didn't accept she was ill so she didn't really engage with the help that was being offered to her.

    "She said she was putting us in danger and said on more than one occasion: 'I'm not going to let them take me alive.'"
    On May 25 last year, whilst staying with friends, Caroline complained of feeling unwell and later admitted she had taken an overdose.
    She was taken to Cheltenham General Hospital but died of multiple organ failure on May 31.
    At an inquest into her death last week Gloucestershire coroner Alan Crickmore said: "I am driven to the conclusion that it was her intention that she brought about her death, but when she did that she was beginning to suffer from a paranoid episode."
    He recorded a verdict of suicide while the balance of Caroline's mind was disturbed.
    Grandmother-of-two Mrs Eldridge, 65, said: "We will never come to terms with the tragic loss of such a wonderful daughter. You just have to live with the fact that she's gone. "As her older sister Angela said, you expect your parents to die first, not one of your siblings or your son or daughter. You always expect them to be there."

    I feel great sympathy for Caroline Eldridge and her family, such a tragic waste of what was obviously an intelligent and beautiful woman. She must have been extremely stressed by the thoughts in her mind and the fact that she believed them to be very real.
    Some comments about her, such as "a picnic short of a sandwich" and "loon" are extremely insensitive.
    Let´s hope you never suffer such depression and paranoia.

    Ken the article does say that she was sectioned under the mental health act and treated for 1 month.
  2. Wow that's really horrible. Poor woman.
  3. WOW, that's very sad. :crybaby:
  4. Omg..that's so sad :'(!!!!
  5. That poor woman and her poor family!
  6. Oh, how awful... My condolences to all of her family. :sad:
  7. Thats so sad!
  8. Very sad, but I can only hope that there won't be a mass burning of this book now, under the guise that it causes people to commit suicide!
  9. It's sad but it's NOT the books fault. Obviously this woman had mental problems. I have a brother with paranoia and it is very similar to what is decribed. There are medications for this. I wonder why she was not placed on them. Last resort I suppose. I wonder what sort of drugs she took for the overdose? Certain drugs can make the paranoia much worse.
  10. Syntagma: you raise a good point. What medication did she OD on? I just wonder if anyone saw the decline in her mental status and tried to help her.

    It is in no way the books fault. However, when there is a book/movie about mental illness, or in this case paranoid feelings regarding conspiracy, there is usually a rise in indiviuals who report these feelings and often time with constant cognitive repition amd perceptons of symptoms, a disorder can manifest. I just hope that there isnt an uprise of copy cats.

    My thoughts are with the family.
  11. Syntagma.... I wonder what sort of drugs she took for the overdose.

    After repeatedly telling her family, "I'm not going to let them take me alive," she took an overdose of paracetamol.

  12. I agree. you cant blame the book for this. she clearly had mental issues prior to reading the book.

    It is such a sad story.
  13. Very sad. I have two cousins with schizophrenia. It's so hard watching healthy, happy people succumb and it feels like there's nothing you can do to stop it/help them!

    I wish the best for her family.
  14. I feel sorry for that woman she suffered with mental illness for long and was permitted by her family isolate herself and become further deluded from reality. and then when it's too late to place blame on external causes.
  15. That's so sad and disturbing! And what a beautiful woman she was!:shame: