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Neglect had role in suicide of patient; INQUEST: Man who escaped pysychiatric ward took own life on railway line.

Byline: By Chris Henwood

NEGLECT contributed to the death of a Birmingham man who escaped from a psychiatric ward and then committed suicide on a city railway line, inquest jurors ruled.

Benjamin Alexander Pither, aged 39, died instantly when he was struck by a train after lying across tracks in a tunnel between Five Ways and New Street stations at 4.16pm on May 19, last year.

Birmingham Coroner Court heard how Mr Pither, of Grove Avenue, Moseley, had earlier walked out of his Queen Elizabeth Hospital ward through a door that should have been locked.

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust (BSMHT) chief executive Sue Turner said a full investigation had been carried out into the tragedy, but described the court's neglect verdict as "disappointing".

Unemployed Mr Pither, who had an extensive history of severe depression, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act at his family's request weeks before his suicide after he was caught trying to run a hose from the exhaust of a car to a bedroom at his mother's house. She told the court how he made three or four escape attempts.

"He sometimes followed people out, shadowing them to get through the door. He seemed to be able to do it quite easily," said Valerie Pither.

But observation of former Birmingham University economics student Mr Pither was reduced from constant watch to checks every 15 minutes on the advice of consultant psychiatrist professor Femi Oyebode.

He told the court Mr Pither's condition seemed to be improving with a programme of non-medication. "There was no evidence that suicide was imminent," said Professor Oyebode.

But the professor also said the door to the ward, which was classed as open rather than secure, should have been locked.

The jury returned a majority verdict that Mr Pither took his own life and died suffering multiple injuries. It also ruled that neglect played a part.

Ms Turner, of BSMHT, said in a statement: "We are disappointed by the verdict, but we take on board the findings made."
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jul 5, 2008
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