The father of a 23-year-old who died after running away from a mental health hospital by jumping over a fence said staff knew patients regularly absconded.
Matthew Caseby died after being struck by a train in September 2020, having run away from the Priory hospital Woodbourne in Birmingham where he had been detained as a mental health patient.
He jumped over a low fence in a courtyard while unattended, two days after being admitted to the hospital as an NHS patient.
Matthew had been detained under the Mental Health Act following reports of a man running along train tracks in Oxfordshire, and subsequently reporting hearing voices and “receiving messages”.
“[They] had a basic legal duty under the Mental Health Act to keep our son safe and secure. They did not,” said Richard Caseby, giving evidence at the opening of the inquest into his son’s death. “There have been catastrophic consequences, for Matthew, for me, for my wife.”
After an assessment at Warneford hospital in Oxford, doctors decided to section Matthew in a mental health ward for his own safety, but he was sent to a hospital almost 80 miles away in Birmingham due to a lack of beds, and because he was still registered with a GP in the city from his time as a student there.
Richard Caseby told the jury at Birmingham coroner’s court on Monday that he raced to the city from London on the evening of 7 September to search for his son after learning he had left the hospital.
He said during a call with the Priory hospital Woodbourne at 6.30am the following morning, a member of staff told him: “Oh, people abscond all the time, for drink, drugs, to meet friends, it’s a common occurrence. They usually come back after they’ve done whatever they need to do.”
The words were “burned in my memory”, Richard said. “And there I was thinking my son was supposed to be safe in a psychiatric hospital having being sectioned for his own safety. I was certainly very wrong about that.”
Richard Caseby was searching for his son near his former halls of residence on the morning of his death, and was 200 yards away from Matthew when he was hit by a train just north of the University train station at 8.46am. He died from a head injury caused by high-impact collision with a train.
His father said that during his search through the night he flagged down three police cars near the hospital but none of the officers were searching for Matthew, or knew he had absconded.
After being informed by the Priory hospital, West Midlands police initially marked Matthew’s disappearance as medium risk, and only upgraded it to high risk the following morning, less than two hours before Matthew’s death.
His father described Matthew as a “sensitive, gentle and intelligent soul” who was a talented footballer and as a teenager had trials with Charlton Athletic FC.
After graduating with a first in history from the University of Birmingham, he started working as a personal trainer at a gym in London while living with his parents at their home in Blackheath. He had plans to open his own fitness and coaching business.
He started having counselling in September 2019 and it was around this time that Matthew became more private and less willing to share information about his life, his father said. During lockdown in early 2020 he moved to his parent’s holiday home in Suffolk and became more resistant to visits from family.
The inquest continues.