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Responding to Violence, Suicide, Psychosis and Trauma

Trust ‘sorry’ for murders by patients in its care

• Reports criticise Humber mental health trust for failure of care
• Mother of five and elderly woman died in separate incidents

* Sam Jones
* guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 6 May 2009 00.30 BST

A mental health trust has apologised to the family of a pregnant woman who was killed by a paranoid schizophrenic man, and to the relatives of an 82-year-old woman who died at the hands of her mentally ill son.

New reports into both cases have criticised Humber mental health teaching NHS trust for failing to provide better care for the two men.

Tina Stevenson, a 31-year-old mother of five, was on her way home from an ante-natal class in Hull on 5 January 2005 when she passed Benjamin Holiday. The 25-year-old man, who had missed his medication the day before, stabbed Stevenson in the back. Neither she nor her unborn twin boys could be saved.

Holiday admitted manslaughter during his trial in May 2006 and was ordered to be detained indefinitely at a secure mental hospital.

An independent report into his care and treatment published by NHS Yorkshire and Humber concluded he had been “under-treated” by the trust.

Holiday, who had been suffering mental health problems since 2001, spent a fortnight in a secure unit in 2004 but was later discharged and treated in the community. The report admitted that Holiday, whom it referred to as “B”, was a difficult patient to engage with and was skilled at masking his symptoms.

It concluded: “The root cause contributing to B’s continuing severe mental disorder was that of ‘under treatment’. B’s situation and condition could and should have been more assertively managed.”

The chief executive of the Humber trust, David Snowden, apologised to those affected by the case and promised lessons would be learnt. He said his trust “fully accepted the recommendations, which we are taking very seriously”.

The trust also apologised to the family of Ivy Torrie, 82, who was killed by her mentally ill son, Michael, in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, in 2003.

A separate report attributed Michael Torrie’s actions to the “rapid reduction of medication and the way this was managed in the absence of a risk assessment”.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity Sane, said that although such events were rare, they did not “come out of the blue”.

“It is not an expensive revolution in care we need but common sense,” she said. “You do not leave an 82-year-old mother alone to care for her mentally ill son whose medication has been radically changed, with no support.

“Nor do you allow someone who may be becoming severely disturbed to dictate their own care and treatment without rigorous assessment of the risk they may pose to themselves or others.

“We have had 15 years of independent inquiries all exposing the same fault lines in the care and treatment of people with serious mental illness.”

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