Penrith store manager “determined to kill himself”, inquest told

Date: Friday 1st October 2010

A CORONER has concluded that even powers of detention under the Mental Health Act could not have prevented the death of Greystoke man Marcus Noble, who drowned in the River Caldew in December, 2009.

Coroner David Roberts concluded that 45-year-old Mr. Noble, manager of Penrith’s Burton’s store, killed himself after leaving the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, on 27th December, to which he had been admitted on suspicion of taking an overdose.

The inquest, held at Carlisle on Thursday, heard that Mr. Noble was determined to kill himself and even if a doctor at the hospital had legally detained him, the staff there had no physical means of restraining a patient and would have simply had to call the police to detain him something they did anyway after he told them he was going to leave, but he left before police officers arrived.

In a statement to the inquest, Mr. Noble’s GP, Dr. I. P. Pritchard, said Mr. Noble had been suffering from depression since 2008 and had twice that year taken an overdose.

On the day before his admission to the Cumberland Infirmary, his wife, Nancy, had reported him missing to the police, after he failed to return home to Icold House, Greystoke, from work. PC David Holliday told the inquest he had contacted Burton’s assistant manager, Mary Martin, who said she had sent him home shortly before 10 o’clock that morning, but directed him to Swinside, near Mosedale, where she said Mr. Noble sometimes went to think. It was there that Mr. Noble was found in his car, after seemingly taking some pills.

Community psychiatric nurse Rhona Baldatto gave a statement to say that Mr. Noble had felt under pressure at work and had been under the mental health team’s care for some time. However, on the day he was admitted to hospital, staff at the Cumberland Infirmary had to first concentrate on his physical health, before contacting the mental health crisis team, and by the time the crisis team was contacted Mr. Noble had regained full consciousness and was refusing to co-operate.

Dr. Marton Cowley, who was on duty at the time, said: “He refused to give us permission to contact his family and did not wish to see the psychiatric team. We tried to persuade him to remain in hospital. The crisis team adviser said I should either let him leave and call the police or detain him under the Mental Health Act.”

Dr. Cowley said it was his judgement that because there was no hospital manager on duty, he would have nobody to give the paperwork to in order to actually bring the Mental Health Act into force and, while he could legally detain him, it was against hospital policy to use physical restraint. He said that since Mr. Noble was already telling staff he was going to leave, he felt the police would be able to respond more quickly, and they also had powers to detain people under the Mental Health Act.

Sister Christine Robinson said she contacted the police at about 8-50am, to tell them that Mr. Noble was leaving, and he was considered to be a suicide risk, but officers did not arrive at the hospital until about 9-10am, and Mr. Noble had already left.

The inquest heard that despite Mr. Noble having told a nurse he would find another way to kill himself and describe how and where, it was not clear whether the officers who attended the hospital were aware of this information at the time. They therefore first searched the hospital and grounds to try to find him.

Mr. Noble’s body was found in the river on 30th December, still wearing his hospital identity tag. Mr. Roberts said that because of this, it was his view that Mr. Noble had killed himself the day he left hospital, in exactly they way he had described.

The formal verdict was that Mr. Noble killed himself. Mr. Roberts found no neglect on the part of hospital staff and said that since the hospitals’ trust had reviewed its ways of dealing with patients who displayed a risk of self harm, as a result of an investigation into the handling of Mr. Noble’s case, no letter of recommendation from him, advising that action should be taken to prevent a similar incident from happening again, was necessary.