Woman who fell from balcony 'feared she was under attack', inquest hears — (Your Local Guardian)

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Your Local Guardian

by Laura Proto

8:00am Wednesday 19th June 2013

A woman with mental health problems fell from her balcony after fearing police and family members outside her front door were trying to attack her, an inquest heard.

Frances Murray, 57, who lived in the Heart, Walton, suffered from bipolar disorder and mania for 20 years.

On the day she fell, November 13, 2011, she had made 66 phone calls to mental health workers in a 40-minute period, which her son Carl Bellamy, 38, said was “a clear cry for help”.

She had also called her son, asking him to bring her groceries and cigarettes and Mr Bellamy described her state as “very manic”.

On arriving at about 8pm, Mr Bellamy said he and his partner Neil Harris were asked to leave the bag on the pavement because Mrs Murray did not want them to come up.

After gaining access to the building, Mr Bellamy said: “She still didn’t want to see any of us. She was very distressed and in panic mode and she said if we didn’t leave ‘I’m going to phone 999’.

“I actually wanted her to phone the police because I was very concerned about her. I knew from experience that my mum needed to be put in hospital. She needed urgent medication and needed to be stabilised.”

PC Craig Brooks told Mr Bellamy to get the spare keys, because he did not think kicking the door down was necessary.

Mr Bellamy said: “I was gone about 20 minutes and on my return I parked my car and walked across the road and I could see a few people standing over this person who was lying on the floor.

“I thought it was someone who came out the restaurant and fainted.

“As I got closer, I just thought ‘Oh my God, please don’t say it was my mum’. She was wearing red tracksuit bottoms and as I got closer, I realised it was my mum.”

Mrs Murray died in hospital the next day and a postmortem examination concluded her cause of death was intracranial haemorrhage and a fractured skull.

An Independent Police Complaints Commission report said police actions did not precipitate her death.

Mrs Murray was visited by mental health workers less than a week before her fall and, prior to that visit, had not been seen for nearly six weeks.

During the course of her inquest, care co-ordinator Ann Pemberton said there were warning signs and a number of issues may have contributed to her deteriorating state.

Among those were a lack of visits, problems with medication and communication issues between mental health workers and her GP.

Miss Pemberton visited her on Tuesday, November 8, but was asked to leave 15 minutes later when Mrs Murray’s behaviour became agitated.

At the time of the visit Mrs Murray had a friend staying with her who also had mental health problems, and her son described him as a “disturbed individual”.

Miss Pemberton said Mrs Murray was wearing an outfit that reminded her of a pirate, which was “not ordinary attire for her”.

Assistant deputy coroner for Surrey Belinda Cheney said: “That was not enough to tell you to do a mental health assessment?”

Miss Pemberton said a follow-up on the Monday was planned.

Prior to the visit on November 8, Mrs Murray had not been seen since September 30.

Contact had been attempted on several occasions, but they had been cancelled by Mrs Murray, who said she was unwell.

Ms Cheney said it was a long time for her not to have been seen.

Questions were also raised about Mrs Murray’s medication and why her GP continued to prescribe the anti-depressant Sertraline, when mental health workers said she no longer required it.

Ms Cheney said: “On November 8, as we know, a meeting was conducted at her home and the meeting was aborted after 15 minutes.

“On the 11th she didn’t engage and that should have been worrying. Miss Pemberton called the home treatment team, but they decided to not become involved. It is not a decision that seems easily understandable.

“There was always going to be a question whether she jumped and intended to kill herself or jumped to get away from people on the other side of the door. I have not heard anything that meant she intended to take her life.”

Ms Cheney recorded a narrative verdict and said she intended to write to the NHS trust with recommendations to prevent similar instances.