Hanged father-of-four ‘adored his children’
A FATHER-OF-FOUR was found hanged in a disused farmhouse a few hours after being reported missing to police, an inquest heard.
Phillip Heap, 41, of Oak Avenue, Rising Bridge, had a history of depression and previous suicide attempts and was discovered at the building in the grounds of Winfields Outdoors store in Haslingden on October 24 last year.
At the hearing, his partner Jennifer Prestidge and mother Janet Heap have criticised the support provided by mental health services after being referred for help in 2016.
Burnley Coroners Court heard how Ms Prestidge reported Mr Heap missing at 8.50am and he was located by police at 11.20am.
A post-mortem examination found that he died from hanging and there were no alcohol or drugs in his system.
Detective Inspector Paul Barlow said Mr Heap was classed as a ‘high risk’ missing person and the ‘only entry in or out’ of the farmhouse was through windows. A note was found at the scene which showed he intended to end his life, the hearing was told.
It also included an ‘apology to his family’, the inquest heard.
Ms Prestidge praised the ‘brilliant’ police who helped search for Mr Heap but criticised the staff member who handled her 999 call.
The inquest was told that Mr Heap had an appointment to speak with police on the day of his death.
Ms Prestidge said: “When I phoned the police and said what’s happening she was more interested in the case we were going to discuss instead of whether he could be dead or not.
“It’s disgusting. I expect a full apology from her. She had a duty of care to him. The police that came to the house were brilliant.”
Mrs Heap added: “We have to praise the officers who were there on the day because they were absolutely fantastic with us.”
DI Barlow told the family: “When somebody goes missing like that quite a lot of resources go in to locating them.
“What we also do is refer everything to our police complaints, which has been done. It will get investigated fully to see if there is wrongdoing or inappropriateness.”
The inquest heard that former TS Chemicals worker Mr Heap was last seen by his GP in September 2015 and was referred to the mental health team in 2016.
Alex Crawshaw, a mental health nurse at Community Restart, said he was referred from Minds Matter in October 2016 and said Mr Heap was ‘ready to engage in some form of therapy and social inclusion’.
Mr Crawshaw said he made a home visit to see Mr Heap and ‘tried to identify some activities that might interest him’, including gardening.
He said: “Mr Heap told me that he was interested but wasn’t sure if he could get to the end of the street in a car with me, never mind being able to achieve gardening independently, because of his anxiety. He was not ready to engage or change at that point.”
Mr Crawshaw said he suspected Mr Heap had some form of ADHD and he was given a self-referral form to access the nearest services.
Kirsty Gorman, a specialist ADHD practitioner at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said they held a telephone triage appointment with Mr Heap in November 2016 and accepted him onto their waiting list. She also said that they wrote to Mr Heap with further information on how to self-refer for other assessments ‘if he chose to do so’.
The family told the inquest they did not receive a copy of the letter.
Ms Prestidge told the inquest: “It just annoys me that all the mental health team kept doing was referring him back to his GP. They let him down. l Phillip Heap Because he wouldn’t come out of the house that was it.”
Coroner Richard Taylor recorded a conclusion of suicide. He said: “Families will always ask the question what if and ask the question why? This must have been a significant effort for him.
“He must have been incredibly focused on what he was doing that day.”
Janet Heap said: “I think the why is why couldn’t we help him this time? Why didn’t we see it coming?”
Speaking after the inquest, she added: “Everybody loved Phillip. The neighbours on the street were mortified because they loved Phillip. He would do anything to help anybody and he absolutely worshipped and adored his children.”