Clacton: Man due in court charged with mother’s murder — (East Anglian Daily Times)

SSRI Ed note: Man on antidepressants for 8 years stops the cold turkey, harrasses girlfriend, steals from mom, then murders her.

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SSRI Stories Summary:  Spoilt son of mom on disability, frequently in trouble, takes antidepressants for 8 years, is suicidal, in late 2012 simply quits taking them.  A month later he is cautioned for harassing his girlfriend.  He moves into his mom’s 1-bedroom flat and starts stealing from her.  After she confronts him and asks him to move out, he murders her.  The possibility that antidepressant withdrawal was a factor is not contemplated.

East Anglian Daily Times

06:00 05 November 2012

By Elliot Furniss

A woman’s body was found in her flat on St Vincent Road in Clacton-On-Sea on Friday.

A 37-YEAR-OLD man is due in court today charged with the murder of his mother.

Carol Cooper, 66, was found dead at her flat in St Vincent Road, Clacton on Saturday by police officers after they forced their way into the property.

Her son Peter Dickson, a carpet fitter also from St Vincent Road, has been charged with her murder and is due to appear at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court today.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Police were contacted shortly before 7pm on Friday November 2 following concerns for the welfare of a woman inside a flat on St Vincent Road.

“Officers arrived and forced their way into the property where they found the body of 66-year-old Carol Cooper. She lived there.

“Peter Dickson was arrested at the flat and has been charged with one count of murder.”

Mrs Cooper was declared dead at the scene and the area surrounding her home was cordoned off of part of Saturday.

Dickson was detained in police custody prior to his appearance at court and questioned throughout Saturday.

Jeremy Ballam, Mrs Cooper’s brother, who lives in Blythburgh, said her death had hit the “whole family like a sledgehammer”.

He told BBC Essex: “Carol was an awesome sister and a dedicated mother who loved her children.

“She was a fun-loving lady with a such a cheeky sense of humour and always ready to have a laugh with the whole family.

“Carol’s radiant smile was always something we looked forward to seeing,” he said.

The constabulary spokesman said that a post mortem examination carried out on Saturday had failed to establish the precise cause of Mrs Cooper’s death.

Further investigations and tests will now be carried out.


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Report produced by:  Gaynor Mears OBE, MA, BA (Hons), AASW, Dip SW

Date Completed: 6 December 2013

Key Issues Arising from the Review

2.6 During his many contacts with Mental Health services Mr G had 2 full assessments by consultant Psychiatrists one in May 2004, and the other in June 2011 just before his court appearance for dangerous driving and other driving offences.  Opportunities for further assessments were limited due to his tendency of not attending follow-up appointments arranged for him.  He was prescribed anti-depressants and medication to help him sleep after his overdose attempts and he was advised about this excessive alcohol use.  Binge drinking usually followed events which he found difficult to cope with and it was frequently a precursor to an overdose attempt.  When he was assessed in 2004 after being admitted for smoke inhalation following a fire he caused in his mother’s garage he was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder with brief depressive reaction.  This was thought to be due to the breakdown of his first marriage in 2003 and the loss of contact with his children by court order because of his alcohol use, however, by this time he was already in another relationship and his girlfriend was pregnant.

2.7 Between March 2008 and January 2009 Mr G attended sessions at Open Road to address his drinking.  He was not deemed to be a dependent drinker, but tended to binge drink.  He had been recommended to attend the service by Mental Health professionals a number of times, but this was the only time he followed up the initial assessment by attending regularly.  He completed 5 sessions with an Alcohol Adviser in the service, attended acupuncture sessions, and continued to see his keyworker on a regular basis until 27 January 2009 when he was discharged. During his time with the service he reported that his alcohol use decreased, and it is of note that he made no overdose attempts during this period.

2.8 Mr G had two marriages and a number of other relationships all of which were short lived due to his volatile and unpredictable behaviour and his excessive use of alcohol.  In May and June of 2007 he is known to have lived in Coventry for he was seen in A & E there for overdose attempts.  When he was not living with a partner Mr G had a period of time in a Shelter and occasions when he moved in with his mother and stepfather.  On 26 February 2009 a month after Mr G finished his sessions at Open Road, Mrs F phoned the Police and reported that Mr G had stolen her husband’s laptop and made threats to harm him.  He pleaded guilty at court and was fined.  The Criminal Justice Mental Health Team noted that he appeared ‘slightly high’ at this time.  On 5 March 2009 Mrs F phoned the Police again to report that Mr G was smashing up the house.  During a subsequent mental health assessment some months later Mr G disclosed that this incident followed an argument with his mother because she would not give him money to go on holiday.  Mr G was arrested and also admitted to being in possession of a lock knife.  He was sentenced on 15 April 2009 to 4 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months plus 100 hours unpaid work and 12 months supervision.  This order was supervised by a London Probation services.

2.9 In the summer of 2009 Mr G lived in Harrow.  His uncle gave him free use of his caravan and for a short time he had a girlfriend there.  During his stay in Harrow Mr G was admitted as an inpatient to a Mental Health Unit due to overdose attempts between 23 to 27 July, 4 to 11 August, and 24 to September to 7 October 2009.  He also registered with a local GP.  He saw the GP for physical ailments and complained that his accommodation was not comfortable.  During a mental health assessment in 2011 Mr G disclosed that he obtained admission to hospital in Harrow as he had nowhere to stay.  This indicates a degree of insight and the ability to act in such a way as to be admitted to hospital for the purpose of gaining accommodation.  The Mental Health Unit kept Mr G’s GP updated on his condition and liaised with his girlfriend about his care, but this relationship was short lived.  Mr G failed to attend further mental health appointments in Harrow.

2.10 On his return to Essex Mr G moved from a Shelter into a shared flat in December 2010.  In January 2011 he struck up a friendship with a neighbour which then developed into a year long relationship.  At first he was seen to be friendly and polite, but his behaviour became more unpredictable as time passed.  He was responsible for significant damage to his shared flat; he stripped out pipes and the boiler and sold them, and he drew over the walls.  On one occasion the Police came to interview him when he returned to his flat after his girlfriend had reported him missing and Mr G told them the flat had been burgled.  After the Police left he admitted that he had done the damage.

2.11 On 11 March 2011 Mr G’s girlfriend phoned the Police and reported that he had stolen her car, he had also taken some other possessions.  A relative of Mrs F’s also phoned their GP to report that he was ‘as nutty as a fruitcake’ and would need help if he was arrested.  He was eventually arrested in Harrow and admitted to a Harrow Mental Health hospital on 17 March 2011 under section (5)(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983, he was diagnosed with Personality Disorder Unspecified, but he absconded from the hospital on 19 March and returned to Essex.  His girlfriend was reluctant to have him back with her, but was persuaded by a friend of Mr G’s to help in the short-term, but on 20 March 2011 the Police were called once again as Mr G was ‘going berserk’ and had stolen his girlfriend’s car again.  A Police car chase ensued during which Mr G tried to ram a Police car.  The chase end outside Mrs F’s flat where Mr G was arrested for dangerous driving and other motoring offences.

2.12 Mr G was initially held in custody.  He was then electronically tagged and released on bail until his court case.  Each time Mr G was held in custody following involvement with the Police he made them aware of his previous overdose attempts and arrangements were made for him to be medically assessed and checked at regular intervals.  In 2 previous custodies he had been taken by Police for medical treatment due to punching the cell door or complaining of a physical ailment.   During this period of custody he was found with his sweatshirt around his neck, observations were increased but this was not considered a serious attempt on his life.  The Criminal Justice Mental Health Team assessed Mr G on 21 March 2011 and he reported that he lived in Harrow with his mother.  This was untrue; Mrs F had never lived in Harrow.  He presented as chaotic and anxious, and a Prison Warning Notice was completed advising that he was at possible risk of self harm.  Mr G was released on bail on 15 April 2011.

2.13 Between his release on bail and his trial Mr G had an assessment by a forensic Psychiatrist to ascertain his fitness to plead.  He was found to have no evidence of psychosis and his mental illness did not warrant treatment under the Mental Health Act. The Psychiatrist judged that he would benefit from drug and psychological treatments for depression, anxiety, and to address his personality issues.  It was considered that his acting irresponsibly would increase at times of distress, but he was able to understand his actions were against the law.  He showed partial insight into his behaviour, but he showed little remorse for putting others at risk.  He was considered fit to plead.

2.14 In his period of bail leading up to his trial in July 2011 Mr G lived with his mother Mrs F.  With the support of her GP and the Pharmacist she was trying to reduce some of her medication, however her anxiety levels increased and at an appointment on 26 May 2011 with the Pharmacist she was in a ‘terrible state’ as her son was out of prison and threatening suicide.  Mrs F also admitted that she had given some of her medication to her son. She was strongly advised not to do this and told that her son must see the doctor himself for medication.

2.15 On 18 June 2011 Mr G was admitted by ambulance to A & E having taken an overdose of his medication, and on 28 June he arrived unaccompanied in A & E having taken an overdose of paracetamol.  He was thought to be anxious about his approaching trial.  Mr G was assessed by a consultant Psychiatrist with his mother present and a diagnosis of Mixed Anxiety and Depressive States and Cluster B Personality Disorder was given.  Mr G failed to attend a follow up appointment with the Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment Team.  The consultant reported this and the diagnosis to Mr G’s GP.  During assessment it is noted that Mr G was to continue attending Open Road, however, he was not attending the service at this time.  His attendance at Open Road finished in January 2009.

2.16 On 11 July 2011 Mr G’s first wife contacted the Police stating that he was outside her house and he was not suppose to know where she lived.  She stated that she had not seen him for a number of years and she was scared.  The Police met her at her mother’s house, but no offences were disclosed.  Mr G was advised to leave and not return.  The incident was assessed as ‘standard’ risk and information was shared with Children’s Services as there were children in the household.

2.17 Mr G was found guilty of dangerous driving and other driving offences on 13 July 2011.  He was sentenced to a 24 month Community Order with supervision and a requirement to undertake a ‘thinking skills’ course.  The Probation Offender Manager undertaking his assessment judged him to be medium risk to the public and staff, including the Police, and low risk to ‘known adults’.  His full criminal history including his history of domestic abuse to past partners was not known to inform this assessment; therefore no Probation SARA1 assessment was undertaken.  Similarly, although the Offender Manager was aware of Mr G’s mental health issues and diagnosis, and had spoken to the Psychiatrist who was overseeing Mr G’s care in the community, no full mental health history and his record of overdose attempts was shared.   The Psychiatrist was clear that Mr G’s mental health did not absolve him of responsibility for his offending behaviour, although Mr G himself attributed his behaviour to his mental health problems.  The Offender Manager considered his actions were also the result of attention seeking behaviour and poor problem solving skills.  Alcohol was noted as a contributing factor in his offending.

2.18 During his time under the supervision of Probation Mr G was living with his mother in her one bedroom flat.  This meant accommodation was cramped and he slept in the living room, although Mrs F sometimes gave up her bed for him.  At the beginning he was to be assessed for independent accommodation, but he had previous tenancy issues.  He also reported that he was his mother’s carer and had related benefits; as a result he withdrew from the job seeking process.  In March 2012 he informed his supervising Offender Manager that they had moved to a ground floor flat which was more suitable for his mother’s needs.  This was untrue; his mother’s flat was on the first floor and she did not move at any time.  However, in the absence of a home visit the Offender Manager gained the impression that Mrs F had mobility problems and they had no knowledge of the extent of her ill-health or that she was taking medication for anxiety which was being exacerbated by Mr G virtually taking over her flat.  For example a relative informed the Review that Mr G determined which television programmes were watched, he had a girlfriend to stay, and Mrs F was not allowed to put her pictures on the wall only his.

2.19 Whilst under Probation supervision Mr G had good attendance at the Thinking Skills Programme and sessions with his supervising Offender Manager.  At one stage he expressed a wish to regain contact with his children, but then changed his mind.  The reason for his lack of contact was not explored.  He had a mental health assessment in September 2011 and was discharged to the care of his GP.  This information was not shared with Probation.  On 1 November 2011 Mr G told the Offender Manager that he wanted to stop his medication, and he was advised to consult his GP.  Mr G informed his supervisor on 8 December that he was no longer taking his medication.   It would appear that he did not consult his GP for at the beginning of January 2012 his surgery noticed that he had not requested a repeat prescription, and he was asked to attend the surgery to see his GP.  The Offender Manager did not follow up this matter with Mr G’s GP or Psychiatrist although disengagement from Mental Health services or from his medication were key elements of his management plan.

2.20 On 14 December 2011 the Police received a call from Mr G’s former girlfriend from whom he had stolen a car twice.  She was receiving unwanted texts and phone calls from him.  Mr G was arrested on 16 December and following interview he was cautioned for harassment and released.  This arrest was not shared with Probation as they and the Police currently have no system for flagging offenders supervised by Probation or for Spousal Assault Risk Assessment: a clinical checklist used by Probation to assess perpetrators of domestic abuse. Probation to notify the Police of an offender who is supervised by them.  This was raised as an early leaning point at the beginning of the Review.

2.21 Mr G was perceived to be progressing well on his order and, as during the period of support by Open Road in 2008, he had no overdose attempts while he was receiving the attention Probation.  An application was made to the court on 16 July 2012 to revoke his order early and this was granted.  At his last appointment with his supervisor on 23 July he reported that he was caring for his mother full time.

2.22 A contribution to the Review by one of Mrs F’s close relatives provides an insight into the difficulties Mrs F was facing by having Mr G living with her.  She was lower in mood and felt that her flat no longer belong to her.  She often visited her relative and would frequently be reluctant to go home because he was there or he would have his girlfriend in the flat with him.  Mrs F felt unable to challenge him because he would become verbally abusive, stomp around the flat, or threaten to go out and get drunk; she then worried that he would get into trouble with the Police.  Mrs F also supported him financially, usually buying him clothes and giving him money to go out.

2.23 At some point in the middle of October 2012 Mrs F discovered that her son Mr G had been using her bank cards and stealing from her.  She asked for his key to the flat and told Mr G to leave.  Mrs F’s relative stated that she was traumatised by the discovery of her son’s behaviour and extremely upset; she was thought to be contemplating removing him from her will.  It is thought Mr G went to live with his girlfriend, however, at some point Mrs F’s relative reports that a neighbour saw him using a ladder to try and enter his mother’s flat and she let him in to prevent him disturbing her neighbours.  Mrs F loved her son even though his behaviour caused her great anxiety and shame and she would not report his actions to the Police.  Relatives describe Mr G as having been spoilt as a child and if he did not get his own way he would become abusive.

2.24 At the beginning of November 2012 Mrs F’s relative became concerned that she had not heard from Mrs F nor had she attended a doctor’s appointment and she called the Police.  The Police forced entry to Mrs F’s flat and found her body in the bedroom.  Mr G was also in the room.  He was arrested, charged with murder, and held in custody until his trial.