Grace Herington struggled with her mental health after moving to Sydney for university.
Grace Herington struggled with her mental health after moving to Sydney for university.

Star student fell to death during drug-induced psychosis

Terrified and having a cannabis-induced psychotic episode, Grace Herington didn't want to die when she slipped out of a police officer's arms and plunged 10 metres off a Sydney highway to her death.

The 23-year-old former dux of Grafton's Clarence Valley Anglican School was a star student and had moved to the city to study history at the University of Sydney, training hard in martial arts and sticking clear of drugs and alcohol like a "beautiful country girl".

But Sydney "ate her up and spat her out" according to her heartbroken mother.

Ms Herington's mental health began to spiral after using cannabis. In the early hours of December 19, 2018 her brother Kenneth woke in their Hunters Hill apartment to find her hallucinating with books and diaries around her.

Lidcombe Coroners Court heard Mr Herington called paramedics before his sister climbed out her bedroom window and began running towards an off ramp from Burns Bay Rd.

One paramedic began to draw up a syringe of chemicals to sedate her when two police officers arrived in their patrol car as Ms Herington started to scream, the court heard.

State Coroner Magistrate Teresa O'Sullivan said Ms Herington suddenly ran towards the edge of the off ramp and climbed over a guard rail when one of the police officers managed to grab hold of her leg and momentarily prevent her from falling.

"Grace's body continued to fall over the ledge until she was hanging from her leg," Ms O'Sullivan said.

"Grace then began to swing her body. He was unable to continue holding her and she fell headfirst towards the road below."

Ms Herington suffered critical injuries and was rushed to Royal North Shore Hospital but later died.

Ms O'Sullivan ruled Ms Herington died from fatal injuries sustained in the fall during an acute psychotic episode induced by cannabis use.

"There is no evidence Grace intended to end her life - (her) death was a tragic end to a young and promising life," Ms O'Sullivan said.

The court was also told Ms Herington had been taken to hospital on December 18 as a voluntary patient but was discharged after a psychiatrist did not consider her reported systems supported a psychotic disorder.

Her heartbroken mother Janelle Herington told The Daily Telegraph that her daughter's mental health suffered when she tried cannabis after moving to the city and warned other teenagers against using drugs.

Grace and Rachel at Sydney Harbour.
Grace and Rachel at Sydney Harbour.

"Don't bloody well smoke (Cannabis)," she said. "Sydney ate her up and spat her out. She was a beautiful country girl, innocent to the world."

Ms Herington said her daughter had no mental health problems at high school in Grafton and only ran into trouble when she was introduced to drugs in Sydney.

"It's the old cliche of moving to the city and getting in with the wrong crowd," she said. "She was a perfect good girl, there was nothing wrong with her as a teenager … (drug use contributed to mental health problems), for sure.

"I think about her and I miss her every day … I think that she's still at uni and I think deeper and then I'm like oh god - she's not at uni.".

Ms Herington's lifelong friend Rachel Hubble said she was shocked only sporadic drug use had triggered the psychosis.

"To me it's so unfair people can do that every week and she can do it one off and have this devastating effect" Ms Hubble said.

"When I first meet people and talk about her I try and show a photo - this isn't someone who has half a shaved head and heaps of piercings - she was (so) gentle.

"She was so hardworking, she was studious and always gave 110 per cent.

"I could tell her anything."