Hatfield man found dead in Thames had escaped from mental health unit

PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 February 2014

Ozan Atasoy

Ozan Atasoy

Archant

A schizophrenic Hatfield man was found dead after escaping from mental health nurses who were supposed to be keeping him under close supervision, a coroner has heard.

Ozan Atasoy, 34, of Lemsford Road was found in the River Thames in London on May 19, 2012, 13 days after slipping out from a mental health ward on the QE2 Hospital site in Welwyn Garden City.

Psychiatrist Christopher Hawley told Hatfield Coroner’s Court on Tuesday: “He just looked terrible.

“I said he was not to be allowed out for 28 days, smoking or not. That was an absolute order.”

The inquest heard that although it was not a “secure ward”, a high proportion of patients in the first floor mental health unit were detained for their own safety under Section Three of the Mental Health Act, including Mr Atasoy.

Since his admission on April 6, he had tried to jump over the wall of the smoking garden on several occasions.

A juror asked Professor Hawley during his evidence yesterday: “Why was the patient not placed in a secure ward?”

The psychiatrist said the most secure mental health units were too restrictive, and offered little chance of cure or rehabilitation.

He questioned the suitability of the ward for Mr Atasoy, stating: “I was gullible. Mimms Ward is designated for sectioned patients.

“I allowed myself to believe they could do that [supervise patients detained for their own safety].

“My first thoughts when I heard what had happened would not be repeatable in court.”

Despite the psychiatrist’s strict instructions of no unsupervised breaks, Mr Atasoy was able to follow another patient into a lift to the ground floor, and apparently jump over a five-foot fence out of the smoking garden.

His parents urged police to watch London’s Blackfriars Bridge, where they feared he would kill himself.

Although there is no direct evidence that Mr Atasoy jumped, a witness saw a man behaving strangely on Blackfriars Bridge at 5am the day after his escape, which sparked a massive police search.

The Hertfordshire Partnership University Foundation Trust, which runs the mental health unit, has hired a QC for the four-day inquest, where Mr Atasoy’s family is also represented by a barrister.


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