A well-respected arts journalist was found dead days after travelling to farmland to attempt shamanic meditation, an inquest heard today.
The body of Florence Waters was found in farmland by volunteers after a major county-wide search was triggered following her disappearance.
Coroner Darren Salter said the 33-year-old Daily Telegraph columnist and artist had died from hypothermia.
A body was discovered by a search team shortly after a farmer found an abandoned white canvas bag, belonging to Ms Waters, in an Oxfordshire field.
The coroner had heard that Ms Waters had expressed a desire to undertake 'vision quest' meditation – a shamanic ritual she hoped would assist her creativity – shortly before she died.
Speaking after the inquest her family said: "She was excited to do this quest and set off to do it believing it would lead to a deeper creative life.
"We wish she had been less fearless."
Ms Waters' body was discovered close to Weavers Branch in Thame, Oxfordshire days after going missing from her Oxford home in November 2018.
Brother Freddie Water had visited her in the days before her death and raised concerns about the declining state of the journalist's mental health.
The inquest heard she was found laying down for hours in her cold studio, with no thermal wear, and had expressed a wish to undertake 'vision quest' meditation.
The incident sparked growing fears among Ms Waters' family who had noticed changes in her behaviour in the weeks before she was reported missing on November 19.
She had been seen wandering bare foot and holding her boots through a field in the freezing cold by startled pedestrians, who subsequently learnt of the search for the missing woman and reported it to police.
After detectives launched an exhaustive county-wide search for the missing journalist, a farmer in Thame told police he had found an abandoned canvas shopping bag lying in a field.
Andrew Harwood and Trajan Brand, two volunteers searching for Ms Waters, discovered her body lying in a ditch shortly before 7.30pm on November 22, Mr Salter told the inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court.
By that point she had been missing for three days.
Paramedics who attended the scene confirmed her death two hours later, although the coroner said the precise day or time she had died could not be determined.
The pathologist who carried out a post mortem examination on Ms Waters' body said the cause of death was consistent with hypothermia.
Appearing at the inquest, Dr Alexander Kolar said there were no signs of suspicious circumstances, alcohol or substance abuse.
He added there were some visible external injuries, such as cuts and bruises, likely attained from her travels through rural land.
Julian Masters, a psychiatrist, told the inquest that the journalist had a history of mental health issues including depression and anxiety which had spiralled in the days before her disappearance.
However, she had never shown suicidal will or intention, or expressed a desire to perform outdoor meditation or fasting.
Ms Waters was a regular freelance contributor to the arts pages of the Telegraph and a talented and respected artist in her own right – with works for sale on the Saatchi and Saatchi website.
An introverted woman, the inquest heard she had also considered a career in art therapy and had worked with autistic children, which she enjoyed.
Addressing the hearing, Senior Coroner Mr Salter recorded a narrative conclusion.
He said: "Florence had a history of anxiety and depression but not suicidal ideation. There had been a deterioration in her mental state and a change in behaviour including an expressed desire to lay down and meditate outside.
"On November 19, 2018 she travelled to Thame town centre, and on November 20 at 3pm she was observed walking in a field near Weavers Branch in Thame.
"There was a possible sighting nearby on November 21 at 2pm.
"On November 22 at about 19:20 hours she was discovered deceased in a ditch at the border of a field nearby Weavers Branch in Thame. It is believed she died on or around November 21.
"A medical causal of death was recorded as hypothermia. There was no evidence of assault or third party circumstances.
"It is likely she lay down to meditate or sleep, but died due to the cold the hypothermia."
In an emotional statement issued after the hearing, Ms Waters' family paid tribute to a "wonderful, amazing girl."
"She was unaffectedly beautiful inside and out, and touched the lives of so many with her kindness, generosity and warmth," they added.
"She was talented in many ways, as a writer, journalist and artist, and she channelled her thoughtfulness into all her creations. She had a great sense of humour, an infectious laugh, with a smile never far away.
"She was fearless and brave with the courage always to go her own way. She was excited to do this quest and set off to do it believing it would lead to a deeper creative life. We wish she had been less fearless.
"We are still in complete shock at what happened – heartbroken to lose our precious daughter and sister. So loved and so missed. She will always be with us.
"Finally we would like to thank everyone who helped with the search and attended to her subsequently."
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