A woman initially feared murdered stabbed herself because of financial worries, an inquest heard on Thursday.

The body of 44-year-old Maren John from Germany was found with a kitchen knife embedded in her chest in undergrowth in St Albans in August.

Police, who initally treated the death as suspicious, cordoned off the area and launched a major inquiry.

Miss John's body was discovered by two St Albans residents as they were clearing shrubbery near the entrance to Orient Close off London Road. Forensic tests revealed she had been dead for up to five days.

The coroner heard that police inquiries then showed that Miss John, of Prinzen Street, Plon, had been diagnosed as schizophrenic and was often uncooperative about taking her medication.

She had been treated for her illness in hospital in 2002 and was later moved to a hostel.

Chief Inspector Adrian Tapp of Hertfordshire Police said that extensive investigations were carried out in both England and Germany to trace the events leading up to Miss John's death.

Their investigations were assisted by a cab driver from an Acton-based taxi firm who came forward after reading about the incident in a London newspaper.

CCTV footage showed that Miss John arrived at Heathrow Airport from Hamburg on Saturday, August 23, with no luggage except for a handbag.

She is then thought to have taken a train to Acton underground station and went into a taxi office, where she asked for a cab to take her to Great Yarmouth.

The cab driver agreed and drove her to Great Yarmouth but she then asked to be taken back to London.

On their journey back, Miss John, who was a practising Christian Scientist, noticed a sign to St Albans and asked the driver if the shops would still be open.

He drove her into the city centre and accompanied her to Robert Dyas kitchenware shop where she bought a kitchen knife.

They returned to the car and were driving back towards the M25 along London Road when Miss John told the driver she wanted to get out of the car.

The driver pulled over near the Orient Close junction and Miss John got out and started walking towards the undergrowth where she was later found dead.

The driver turned his car round in Orient Close but had lost sight of Miss John. After waiting for ten minutes he drove off.

When her body was found, her shirt was unbuttoned and she had a single stab wound to the heart consistent with a suicide.

A post mortem revealed no other injuries or signs of a struggle and there was no trace of alcohol or other substances in her blood.

Chief Inspector Tapp said that her only link with St Albans was a Christian Scientist pamphlet found in Miss John's bag which contained the address of a practitioner in Orient Close, who Miss John may have been aiming to seek work with. The practioner no longer lived at that address however and no one else in the road saw her that afternoon.

Her family told police that Miss John had been increasingly anxious about mounting debts and had gone to England in the hope of finding work as a housekeeper at a Christian Scientist home. She had made a few calls to homes from the airport but was told not to call back. Miss John's sister also told police that she had found letters to a friend which mentioned shooting herself.

Coroner Edward Thomas recorded a verdict that she killed herself while suffering from a mental illness.

He said: "It is a great tragedy for her friends and family and they have been extremely co-operative with the police."