A 59-year-old "loving" wife and mother who was head teacher of two St Albans schools took her own life after battling with depression for years, an inquest heard.

Sue King, who was head teacher at Homewood Independent School, in Hazel Road, before later helping to set up and run the Chrysalis School for Autism, was found at her Battlefield Road home on Monday, October 7.

Mrs King was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2008, which came as a "relief" to her after "struggling in the dark" with the condition for decades, Hertfordshire Coroners’ Court heard on Friday.

Speaking to Mrs King’s friends and family, assistant coroner, Graham Danbury, said: "She made it clear that she was going to die at a time of her choosing, rather than in any other way and she discussed this with her family."

He added: "You told me that, on the Sunday, on the day before Sue died, you had a long conversation about life and death which might sound strange to others but is perfectly normal."

Mrs King’s husband of 25 years, Bruce, said that his wife had "something of an obsession" about death and had struggled with depression since she was teenager.

On October 7, Mr King returned home at lunchtime to find his wife "at peace", the inquest was told.

Mrs King had taken an overdose and post-mortem results showed signs of pentobarbital toxicity.

Speaking after the inquest, Mr King said that his wife "simply decided that her time was up" and that her family were thankful that she took her own life in such a peaceful way and after considerable thought.

He explained: "We are all grateful that this was done in a rational mind, not as we had feared in the depths and despair of depression, but leaving a loving and cogent letter after having made all her preparations."

The pair had known each other since they were children and married in 1988.

Mrs King worked briefly as an administrator at St Albans Abbey and then turned to full-time teaching, not only being head teacher of Homewood Independent School, but helping to found the Chrysalis School for Autism.

Mr King added: "At home she was always a really loving and supportive wife and a proud and loving mother of three wonderful sons who I know feel grateful and privileged that she was able to hang on to see them through to adulthood, especially knowing that, at times, each day could be a struggle.

"Not only was Sue someone whom I loved very much indeed but she was also someone whom I respected enormously, for her opinions, her honestly and integrity, her great faith and her consideration for others. 

"She would never pass a homeless person on the street without giving them money or buying them something to eat and drink as well as sometimes giving them a huge hug."

Mr Danbury said: "The conclusion I have to reach is clear that Mrs King had determined for some time that there would come a time when she would end her life and that’s what she carried out."

He added: "She took her own life."