Family of Leeds man found dead in River Aire say he was 'failed' by mental health services

A Leeds man drowned in the River Aire near the Royal Armouries  after telling the mental health professional who gave him a lift that he would take his own life if left alone, an inquest heard.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 9:04 am

The family of 25-year-old Daniel Hirst of Beeston said he was failed by the Leeds and York Partnership Trust after a coroner recorded an open verdict following an inquest at Wakefield Coroner's Court.

Mr Hirst's grandmother Gillian Hoare, 63, of Cross Gates, said after the hearing: "He was let down when he asked for help.

"He should never have been left on that ledge next to the water on his own in the dark.

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Daniel Hirst pictured on a family holiday as a boy.

"He was failed by mental health services."

His mother Kathleen Hoare, 45, of Seacroft, said: " I miss him - life will never be the same."

The inquest heard Mr Hirst had been detained at Leeds mental health unit The Becklin Centre under the Mental Health Act in February 2017.

He was discharged after assessors found his condition was most likely due to cannabis and amphetamine use.

Mr Hirst called police just after 7.30pm on April 13 2017 in a paranoid state saying he needed to be sectioned.

Police arrived at his home and officers took him to the Becklin Centre.

Mental health professional Don McKnight and senior crisis practitioner Stacey Lee Hayton conducted a 'street triage' examination at the centre.

They believed Mr Hirst was under the influence of drugs and did not feel he was a suicide risk.

They noted he was paranoid but that his mental state was most likely due to drug use and did not need to be admitted to the unit.

Mr Hirst said he wanted to go to a friend's house near the Royal Armouries but refused a lift there from police and a taxi paid for by the mental health trust.

The inquest heard Mr McKnight offered to give Mr Hirst a lift to the Royal Armouries and drove him there while Stacey Lee Hayton - who did not agree with the lift being given - was a passenger in the car.

Mr McKnight parked up and walked with Mr Hirst over a bridge over the water while Stacey Lee Hayton stayed in the car.

Area coroner Jonathan Leach said: "Daniel said he wanted Mr McKnight to stay with him and if he didn't do so he would kill himself."

Mr Leach said that Mr Hirst went over a wall and on to a ledge next to the water and appeared to Mr McKnight to be "angry and agitated."

Mr Leach said: "Mr McKnight thought if he stayed it would aggravate the situation. He left. He was of the view that Daniel was angry."

Mr Leach said Mr McKnight and Stacey Lee Hayton returned to the Becklin Centre.

Mr Hirst called police shortly afterwards and said he was on the edge of the canal and threatened to take his own life by jumping into the water.

Police went to the scene but could not find Mr Hirst and a missing person appeal was launched.

Police divers conducted searches and Mr Hirst's body was recovered on April 27 after it was spotted by a member of the public.

A toxicology report revealed evidence Mr Hirst had used cocaine and cannabis.

A post mortem concluded he died from cold water immersion.

Mr Leach said: "It was at the time usual for staff to transport patients, this is no longer the case.

"I'm satisfied that the decision to discharge Daniel from the Becklin Centre was correct .

"I have heard no evidence to suggest it was an incorrect decision."

Mr Leach said Mr Hirst had made one comment to Mr McKnight that he would take his own life if if he didn't stay.

Mr Leach said: "There had been no suggestion earlier that Daniel would take his own life.

"There was no guarantee that if Mr McKnight stayed the outcome would have been any different.

"There was nothing realistically that he could have done to stop him from doing so."

Recording an open verdict, Mr Leach said: "I have heard no evidence apart from that one comment that Daniel made to Mr McKnight that he intended to do so.

"I'm not satisfied in the circumstances that that is sufficient. Clearly there are other possibilities.

"Daniel may have slipped while on the ledge or may have fallen while attempting to climb back up."

Cathy Woffendin, director of nursing, professions and quality at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said after the inquest: “On behalf of the trust, I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the family and friends of Mr Hirst and assure them that we have looked very carefully at what we can learn from his death.

"We conducted a thorough investigation after this tragic incident took place in 2017 and as a result have made positive improvements and changes to the service.”