Specialist solicitor Rhiannon Davies from our Cardiff team has been supporting the family of Peter (Pete) Brown at the inquest into his death at North Yorkshire Coroner’s Court this week.
Dad of two, Pete, tragically died in May 2019, aged 46, after suffering from mental health conditions including depression and anxiety.
The treatment and therapy Pete needed was not available in the community so Pete was admitted to hospital as an informal patient, and he had voluntarily agreed to stay in Danby Ward at Cross Lane Hospital, Scarborough.
After a week in hospital, and a period of deterioration in his symptoms, Pete disappeared after requesting leave to meet a friend on 8 May 2019.
He never returned to the hospital and sadly was found dead near train tracks in Scarborough some 20 months later, in January 2021, after police failed to find his body.
Family’s call for answers
Ahead of this week’s inquest, the family called for answers into the circumstances leading up to Pete’s death and the reasons for the long delay in finding his body.
The family also raised concerns about the availability of treatment in a community setting, the extent of treatment Pete received while in hospital, and why he was allowed to leave the hospital ward when the treating staff believed that doing so would have a detrimental impact on his recovery.
Despite the family speaking to staff and reporting seeing a deterioration in Pete’s condition, he was allowed to leave the ward again and was not initially reported as a high risk missing person to the Police, which meant that efforts to find him were slow to start.
The family then suffered further anguish caused by the Police’s failure to find Pete’s body. Despite mobile phone evidence, his location was not found until 20 months after he died.
Rhiannon Davies says:
“Pete was clearly a vulnerable man who, due to his mental health issues, was at high risk to himself. His family spoke to hospital staff and voiced their concerns when his condition declined, but despite this, he was allowed to leave the ward, and tragically, lost his life.
“Tees, Esk & Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust must take steps to ensure that sufficient measures are put in place to mitigate the risk of patients coming to serious harm or death, when they are allowed to leave hospital temporarily. Pete’s family are deeply concerned that similar harm could come to other mental health patients if lessons are not learned.”
HM Coroner Jonathan Leach told the court that he suspected Pete died “within days or hours from leaving the hospital on the 8th [of May]” and recorded a conclusion of suicide. He expressed his condolences to Pete’s wife and family.
Following the inquest, the family hopes that Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust improves how it deals with suicidal patients who want to leave treatment wards. They also want the Police to improve their search techniques to find those suffering or who may have already taken their own lives.
A tribute to Pete Brown
Pete’s wife Natalie gave this tribute to her husband:
“Pete ran his own local painting and decorating business was much loved by me and his two children, parents Mike and Mary and sister Alex, and nephew Costa. He loved to laugh with his family and was a talented martial arts competitor, holding a black belt in both Karate and Jui-Jitsu.
“Our children remember Pete as being the best dad they could ever wish to have had. He was a wonderful person full of fun and laughter who would do anything for his family. He was much loved by us all and will be missed more than words can say. We want to remember Pete as a loving husband and Dad and not the Pete who suffered so badly under the grips of depression.
“My hope is that the inquest into Pete’s death fully explains the circumstances which led to it, including exploring whether there were failings in the mental healthcare that he received.”