Tragedy of Sussex cricket star’s death fall wife
6:40pm Friday 13th March 2009
By Naomi Loomes »
A former Sussex and England cricketer continually asked health bosses to section his depressed wife in the weeks before she was found dead at the bottom of 400ft cliffs.
Melanie Wells, 45, grew depressed after selling a bed and breakfast she ran with her husband Alan.
Mr Wells, who played for Sussex between 1981 and 1996, told an inquest his wife of 22 years had been refused appointments with the doctor she wanted to see.
Along with his mother-in-law he asked for his wife to be sectioned but this never happened, the inquest was told.
A year after selling the bed and breakfast, Mrs Wells was found dead at the bottom of Birling Gap cliffs near Beachy Head on September 22 2007.
Moments before her death, a walker spotted her sitting cross-legged at the edge of the cliffs and believed she was “doing yoga”.
Today coroner Alan Craze vowed to investigate Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, which provides mental health services in the county.
He said: “This isn’t a witch-hunt, but there appears to be a gap in the system.”
The inquest, held at Uckfield Civic Centre, was told that Mr and Mrs Wells sold their B&B called Riverdale House in Alfriston, near Eastbourne, in 2006.
Mr Wells, of Blatchington Hill, Seaford, told the hearing: “Melanie threw herself into bringing up our two boys and running the business whole-heartedly.
“But it was when we sold Riverdale and moved to Seaford in February 2007 she realised that in her own mind she had given up the best stage of her life and her purpose.
“She didn’t want to contemplate future challenges. All she could do was go back in time and regret the sale of Riverdale.”
Mrs Wells was prescribed anti-depressants and referred to Dr Sunjeev Kamboj, a clinical psychologist with Sussex Partnership NHS Trust, in whom she grew to trust.
But Dr Kamboj discharged Mrs Wells on May 15 2007 and seven days later she took sleeping pills and went to Beachy Head. Mr Wells described this as a “cry for help”.
She was taken back as a patient but made a second suicide attempt on July 5 after being discharged for a second time.
Her family visited her in A&E and asked health bosses to section her but she was sent home.
Mr Wells, who is now a cricket coach at a private school where his sons attend, said: “It was effectively a questionnaire carried out by nurses who didn’t know Melanie. She told them the right answers and was sent home on that basis.”
Querying why the assessment was carried out by nurses and not mental health experts, Mr Craze said: “It seems to put too much power in the hands of people not qualified to wield such power.”
He also queried why Mrs Wells was not granted more appointments with Dr Kamboj.
Addressing Dr Kamboj, he said: “You were told to stop seeing her simply because ‘that’s the system’.”
Mr Craze added: “The coroner must look at what systematically could have been improved.”
The inquest heard that the Trust had carried out an internal investigation.
The hearing was adjourned to allow Mr Craze to call more witnesses.