Woman’s killing: Mental Health services under fire — (Rye and Battle Observer)

SSRI Ed note: Man taking meds for "manic depression" is suicidal, several times reports thoughts of harming his partner, finally kills her. Case reviewed, meds not suspected.

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Rye and Battle Observer

10:15 Thursday 06 February 2003

MENTAL health services have been heavily criticised following the killing of a woman in Netherfield last June. Julie Ann Wendel, 37, was strangled by her partner Timothy Bierton at their home in Netherfield. Both had a history of mental health problems and East Sussex Social Services were said to be “increasingly aware” of the couple’s problems.
At Lewes Crown Court this week Bierton, 48, pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was jailed for four years. Prosecutor Philip Katz said that Bierton, who was acting as Miss Wendel’s carer, repeatedly complained to Social Services that he was finding it difficult to cope. But a joint statement from Social Services and East Sussex County Healthcare NHS Trust said that the offer of help was refused.
The statement reads: “This is a very sad situation and our thoughts are with Julie Wendel’s family and friends.”Both East Sussex County Council’s Social Services Department and East Sussex County Healthcare NHS Trust offered help and support to Mr Bierton over a number of months up to the date of Julie Wendel’s death.

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Report Of The Independent Inquiry Team Into The Care And Treatment Of Mr M (Timothy Bierton) – Commissioned by Surrey and Sussex Strategic Health Authority

July, 2005




We have considered…the period 2000 through to June 2002. 8.2.5   Medication Management During the period under consideration both Mr M and Ms L were prescribed medication as part of the medical management plan.
39 November

22nd 2001

Mr M attended a new GP, having registered following his move to a village near Battle in October.  He reported chest and abdomen pains, also that he had been treated previously for manic depression.  GP discussed Mr M’s drinking pattern and medication.
42 February   14th 2002 Social Worker also noted that Mr M had told her that “when they were both out in the car this am, he had tried to drive his car into a lorry as he ‘has had enough’”…

Later on the 14th a further phone call was made by Ms L to the Social Worker to say that Mr M had cashed her giro and “stolen” her medication.

42 February   15th 2002 On assessment Mr M was noted to have “violent suicidal ideation/intents”, described as “preoccupied with thoughts of self harm, the futility of living and his wasted life”, and that he “had problem with his partner who asked him to leave the house”.

Mr M was admitted to hospital under Section 2 of the MHA; on the paperwork the following is stated; “Feels his life has gone wrong and he has nothing to live for.  Thoughts of stabbing his girlfriend but did not act on them and decided to take tablets and car to kill himself”. Mr M was transferred from Chase Farm to Woodlands Unit in Hastings.

43 February   22nd 2002 An Occupational Therapy assessment was made.  The “Summary of Interview and Identified Needs” states that he is Ms L’s  “ ‘main carer’, doing all the cooking, shopping and housework.  Mr M states that Ms L ‘is all I have’, he has lost his family and friends through drinking and ‘gave-up’ his circle of friends as they took drugs.  Mr M states his only motivation is to ‘get back to Ms L’ although he is ‘worried and frightened’ that he will not cope on discharge.  Mr M states that ‘if I fail again’ he would attempt suicide again.  Mr M also stated that he did have ‘horrible thoughts’ about killing his partner so that ‘I could return to prison’ because it is ‘safe and secure’.”
43 April 2, 2002 The Consultant Psychiatrist’s discharge letter was sent to Mr M’s GP detailing his medication in the Aftercare Plan with a diagnosis of mental and chemical disorder due to the use of alcohol, dependence syndrome, currently abstinent, ICD 110code F10.20.
44 May  2nd 2002 Mr M contacted the Social Worker and reported that the relationship was very difficult.
45 May 16th  2002 Mr M was seen by his GP, notes say he was in pain associated with his broken fibula. Mr M reported that he was drinking bottled shandy only, and that he “still loses temper – girlfriend has major problems”.

Ms L seen by Consultant Psychiatrist at Outpatients, Mr M also present.  Main focus, as documented in letter to the GP on 23rd May appears to have been on reviewing her medication and that “since starting on a different antidepressant medication she has complained of a lot of excessive fatigue”

7 May 2002 During May the tensions in the house were increasing.
56 June 2002 …Mr M appeared fully agreeable to take responsibility for dispensing Ms L’s medication after their visit on the 18th June [2002].  Had there been a clear medication plan within the CPA documentation it may have been clearer that the relative risks associated with Ms L’s chaotic use of her medication at periods of stress and Mr M’s intermittent misuse of Ms L’s medication had been considered when formulating the plan for Mr M to take on responsibility for Ms L’s medicines.

[The sentence above appears to mean that maybe it was risky, given Timothy Bierton (“Mr M)’s instability, history with drugs and alcohol, and periodic use of his partner’s prescriptions, to put him in charge of her medication.]

7 June 21st 2002 The Social Worker visited the household and saw both Ms L and Mr M.  She later phoned Mr M in the afternoon about a possible referral to a carer support agency.  Mr M informed her that everything was OK.  At approximately 10.00pm that evening Mr M phoned the police to inform them that he had killed Ms L.