A young mother who lived on a diet of soup and water starved herself to death, an inquest has heard.

Helen Anderson, 26, was found dead in bed by her mother at her home in Shelley Avenue, Cleadon Park, South Shields, South Tyneside on April 6.

For several months before her death, the talented musician, who played violin, piano and guitar, and once auditioned for the Northern Sinfonia, existed on a diet of just water and soup.

She lost almost six stones in weight, despite her parents, Michael and Hazel Anderson, pleading with her to eat more.

Her body was so starved of sugar it began to eat into its own reserve of fat, the inquest in South Shields heard. This caused a metabolic chemical reaction called ketoacidosis, which killed her.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, South Tyneside coroner Terence Carney said: "This phenomenon - this poison if you like - which developed within her body was made by her body itself.

"It arises as a result of the body reacting to a lack of sugar within itself and that was in part a consequence of the intensive diet with which Helen was attempting to balance her weight. The sad truth of the matter is there has been a development within her body, a natural phenomena, which has set up this poisoning of her body's system and has led to her death."

Miss Anderson, who had a five-year-old daughter, Niamh-Kate, by a previous marriage had been dieting to lose weight she put on as a side effect to medication, the inquest heard.

Forensic pathologist Dr Stuart Hamilton said she had also been taking slimming tablets to speed up her weight loss, but these did not contribute to her death. At 5ft 9in, the mother-of-one weighed 9st 2lb when she died, having been 15st, and was at the lower end of the Body Mass Index (BMI) scale.

She was due to become engaged to a Swedish man she met through the internet, Kristian Persson, and the couple were planning a big engagement party in Sweden, before tragedy struck.