A solicitor died saving two girls from drowning off a holiday beach in Goa, India, only hours before she was due to fly back to the UK from a Christmas break, an inquest in Bradford was told yesterday.

Chetna Nathasingh, 47, managed to keep the girls, aged eight and 12, afloat until help arrived but slipped into unconsciousness before lifeguards were able to pull her from the water.

In a statement read to the hearing, her husband Kipling Nathasingh, described how she had refused to leave the girls in the sea when a jet ski and another vessel reached them, insisting she should be the last to be rescued.

Tragically, by the time lifeguards got to her she had become unconscious and was pronounced dead soon afterwards on the beach at Colva – a popular tourist destination.

The inquest heard how Mrs Nathasingh, who has family in Bradford, had been enjoying the last day of her holiday on December 28 last year and had decided to spend the last few hours of it on the beach near their holiday home.

The couple had been with family friends and their children who she “regarded as the children she never had” when they went into the sea.

Mr Nathasingh, a retired sales executive, said the waves had become too big for him so he got out but the girls “pleaded and begged” for just a few minutes more in the water and his wife had agreed.

No more than ten minutes later he looked out to sea and saw hands waving, he alerted lifeguards but did not realise who was in danger at the time, Describing how the jet ski and the other vessel went out to them, Mr Nathasingh said in his statement: “It was Chetna and the girls struggling.

“One of the girls was semi-unconscious. She refused to leave them. There is no doubt it was Chetna’s selfless action that kept the girls afloat.”

He added: “She was the perfect woman. She was my support, my soul-mate and by best friend. She was loved by many. The fact she gave her life for others was typical of her.”

A post-mortem examination found Mrs Nathasingh died of asphyxia from drowning.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, Assistant Bradford Coroner Dominic Bell described the tragedy as “a very sad and moving story”.

Mrs Nathasingh was raised and educated in Bradford after she and her family fled Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda when she was five. She worked as a legal services manager for South Northamptonshire Council at the time of her death.

A spokesman for South Northamptonshire Council said: “Chetna had served SNC and the people of the district for nearly 12 years and played a key role in representing the council in legal matters. Our thoughts and condolences are with her family.”