WARNING: This article is about mental health and may be distressing for some readers.
Two letters written by a university student before she took her own life were at the heart of her mother's suicide six months later, a coroner's report says.
And now the letters have been permanently suppressed to protect the privacy and reputation of the intended recipients - a decision that has "shattered" the family.
Niki Soni penned the letters, and four others, immediately before her death in Dunedin on March 10, 2018, which has now been ruled a suicide.
The Herald cannot report the content of the two letters or who they were written to, by order of Chief Coroner Deborah Marshall.
But Niki, a 23-year-old University of Otago masters student, wrote that her mother should read all six letters written to family, friends and university colleagues.
Monica Soni died on September 5 that same year after being denied access to the letters, because they formed part of a coronial investigation into Niki's death.
Marshall has also ruled Monica's death a suicide and said in coronial findings into the death that the 53-year-old wrote of her loss of hope.
"In the letter to her son she talked of her difficulty in carrying on without Niki and her despair at not being able to read the letters Niki had written to the university employees," Marshall said in the findings for Monica's inquest.
Before her death, Monica, who lived in Australia, told the Herald she needed to honour her daughter's last request because of her Hindu religion, which dictated that a deceased person's final instructions must be carried out before their ashes could be put to rest.
She hired a lawyer, appealed to the university, police and coronial services before telling her story to the Herald, in a bid to read the letters.
Monica claimed her daughter suffered from depression but in the lead-up to her death, confided in her mother she was being bullied at university.
She said Niki, who she spoke with or messaged daily, complained about a lack of guidance and supervision on her research after discovering 18 months of work had been done incorrectly.
Monica said her daughter felt she could not make a complaint because the person designated to hear complaints was the person she wanted to complain about.
But in her findings, Marshall said there was nothing to suggest any other person was involved with or responsible for Niki's death, and that she had a long history of mental illness including depression and anxiety from age 10.
"She [Niki] reported childhood sexual abuse, parental separation and psychological abuse by her stepfather," Marshall wrote.
"She reported difficulties adjusting after her family moved from India to New Zealand and said she had become more isolated, lonely and withdrawn at this time."
Between November 2017 and March 2018 it was discovered Niki was "having issues with her thesis writing" and five days before her death she was asked to present her thesis drafts at an informal catch-up.
"Niki informed staff that she had lost a large amount of her data and writing during the weekend and her sole backup system had failed," the coroner said.
A University of Otago spokeswoman said it was made aware of the allegations of bullying after Niki died.
"An investigation established that Ms Soni had not raised any such issue with the university, either formally or informally, during her lifetime and the university has noted the coroner's finding that Ms Soni's medical records do not reflect her having raised such matters with her mental health professionals.
"Further, the university's investigation unearthed no information - either from Ms Soni's fellow students or members of staff - suggesting that anything in the nature of bullying had in fact occurred."
The spokeswoman said it was not suggested to the university, and it has no reason to believe, that there was concern with the quality of the data or the supervision provided to Niki.
She said the university considered the coroner's suppression orders in relation to the two letters a personal matter.
On the day Monica died she sent an email to numerous people including the Herald.
"In it, she also referred to being unable to access the letters and indicated that she was about to take her own life," Marshall said.
The Herald immediately made attempts to contact Monica and reported the email to police in Australia.
But Monica had travelled to Auckland the day before and her body was found by police the same day she sent the email.
In the message, she described begging various people to let her read the letters.
"Niki was pushed to take her life, and I feel the same after trying everything in my power for the last six months to get to see those letters.
"Not being allowed to read those letters is more than I can bear."
She also criticised the coronial process as emotionless, prolonged and adding injury to the aggrieved.
Sahil Soni, son and brother to the victims, did not respond to Herald questions but family friend Jaspal Singh said the family would be "sad and shattered" at the coroner's decision not to release the letters.
"The letters were meant for the mother. Until the contents of the letters are made available to the family, justice is not served. Truth is being repressed; justice is being denied."
Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757