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Family of skier found hanged at Linden Centre 'bitterly regrets' sending him there

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: October 28, 2013

By Peter Walker peter.walker@essexchronicle.co.uk

  • DISTRAUGHT: Melanie with son Matthew

  • UNIQUE: "Happy" Matthew learnt to swim aged just three

  • STRAIGHT-A: Matthew passed entry level exams to find himself at all boys grammar school, Westcliffe High

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THE MOTHER of an expert skier who hanged himself with a pillow case in Chelmsford's Linden Centre is still waiting for answers a year after his death.

Melanie Leahy, from Heybridge, claims suicidal Matthew was observed hourly by a student nurse in the days leading to his death in November, aged 20, when he deserved a 24/7 watch.

An NHS investigation is yet to be completed which is holding up the inquest, which should be completed within 24 weeks of being notified of the death according to government guidelines.

Doctors believe his suicide, in the Galleywood ward, was triggered by cannabis.

"Had I known that the staff caring for him would be woefully under-trained, that Matthew had no personal member of staff assigned to him, and that records would not be kept, I would never have agreed to let him go. I bitterly regret it," said property manager Mrs Leahy, 48.

"We have no idea why this was allowed to happen."

Described as a healthy, happy and bright lad, Matthew, a former Maldon Court Preparatory School pupil, learnt to swim at three. After his parents divorced, the straight-A student began at grammar school Westcliff High, but by the age of 15 admitted smoking cannabis to a GP.

At 17 he left school and started a computer support business but in the run-up to a five-month Linden Centre stay in June 2011, he feared he was infested with threadworms.

Between April 2012 and his final admittance to the Linden Centre in November 2012, Matthew returned home with razor blade cuts to his face and smashed up his room in his father Michael's Bradwell home with a baseball bat in a "terrifying psychotic episode".

"Melanie and I were desperate," said dad Michael. "It was exhausting for us."

Worried for their son after distraught phone calls, Linden Centre staff denied he was distressed five days before he hung himself from a door hinge.

Melanie was told he was found hanged at 12.04pm, but it later transpired he did not die until 12.52pm.

"No-one could account for those 48 minutes," Mrs Leahy said.

"Then although he'd told staff he planned to hang himself, shockingly he was left with laces in his shoes, a computer with a charging lead – and, crucially, bed linen which could be torn and a hinge which stuck out in his room on which to hang himself on."

Matthew's death followed a May 2012 Care Quality Commission report concluding the Linden Centre's care and welfare standards were below par.

"Losing Matthew has caused pain beyond description," said Mrs Leahy. "I'm determined Matthew's death won't be in vain."

A North Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust spokesman said: "What happened to Matthew is terrible and the family's hurt is totally understandable. Everyone wants answers.

"The coroner can hold an inquest where all issues are raised, and questions asked. We ask Melanie and her family to talk to us about it all, we will answer her questions and her fears, frankly and honestly. That's in everyone's interest."

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