A WOMAN who drowned in the sea believed she needed to be cleansed of evil, an inquest has heard.

Michelle Wheetman drowned after she walked into the sea at Redcar, east Cleveland, on February 22, last year.

Teesside Coroner's Court was told that the 37-year-old had a history of walking into the sea.

Andrea Crawford, a care co-ordinator at Parkside Community Mental Health Team said Miss Wheetman had previously walked into the sea several times.

Discussing an incident in October 2005, Ms Crawford said: "She stated voices had told her to and that she needed to be cleansed of evil."

She added that medication had stopped Miss Wheetman from hearing voices, but that she continued to have "intrusive thoughts" about cleansing and walking into the sea.

Coastwatch Redcar's station controller Ray Preston spotted her entering the water opposite Redcar's esplanade and then being knocked down by a wave.

Mr Preston told the court he made a 999 call to the Humber Coastguard and rang Redcar Lifeboat Station.

Robert O'Neill, from the lifeboat station's operations team rushed to the beach and saw a dark object in the sea.

"I waded into the water knee-deep and realised the object was a woman wearing a dark-coloured coat," he said.

"She was laying face down and was motionless."

He dragged her to safety and was joined by RNLI crew members who administered CPR.

A RAF Sea King rescue helicopter landed on the beach and flew the unconscious Miss Wheetman to James Cook University Hospital.

Miss Wheetman, of Roxby Avenue, Middlesbrough, was transferred to the intensive care unit.

But a CT scan showed because her brain had been starved of oxygen while she was in the water it had sustained severe irreversible damage.

On February 25 the decision was made by doctors and her twin sister Melanie, to withdraw treatment, and Miss Wheetman died later that day.

Pathologist Dr Jan William Lowe told the court Miss Wheetman died from bronchial pneumonia caused by severe brain damage due to the drowning.

Coroner Michael Sheffield said: "It does seem that she had the thought of walking into the sea to cleanse herself."

But he added he could not be satisfied that she had walked into the sea with the intention of ending her life.

He recorded an open verdict.