Police officers ‘frustrated’ by psychiatric hospital staff after tragedy on fitness coach train

Police officers were “frustrated” after answering a 999 call from a psychiatric hospital asking for help locating a vulnerable patient, only to be told to fill out visitor paperwork. The two West Midlands Police responders, who showed up in uniform at Woodbourne Priory Hospital in Birmingham, were also asked to sign saying they had read the Covid guideline despite the “time-sensitive” nature of their visit, an inquest has been told.

Officers had been called to the hospital after a senior nurse reported that 23-year-old personal trainer Matthew Caseby jumped a fence and fled on September 7, 2020. The following day he was hit by a train.

Louise Hunt, Chief Medical Examiner for Birmingham and Solihull, heard the 999 call about Mr Caseby, who was missing at the time, which was transferred to Chief of Operations Pc Andrew Freeman and his colleague Pc Wayne Thomas at around 5.28pm. It was classified as a Class 1 missing persons call, Mr Freeman said, which was the force’s “highest risk”.

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When officers arrived on the grounds of the large hospital, they were not sure which ward Mr Caseby had escaped from, so they went to the main reception. “In the beginning, to my frustration, I got held up a bit up there,” said Mr. Freeman.

“The receptionist – she was unwilling to give us the information I wanted right away because of some sort of priory policy that we first had to fill out a small amount of paperwork which was then tied in lanyards to us as visitors. Secondly, at the time we were at the height of Covid she wanted us to read a document and then we had to sign to say we had read a document before…she would tell us which one station go to.

“I have expressed my frustration to the receptionist to make her aware that this is an immediate response. We need to get this information as soon as possible. I saw it as time sensitive.

“However, those few minutes later when looking for the street could have made all the difference in being in the right place at the right time. I was just really frustrated at the time.

“We have had a phone call from a person at the Priory to say that this is (a) a very immediate concern, we need to get out immediately and try to find Matthew. On the other side of the coin, when we got there, we were held up for three to five minutes to fill out paperwork so we could wear visitor badges – which I found highly inappropriate.”

After finally gaining access to the right-wing department, staff there were unable to give police basic patient information. “I was pretty frustrated again,” said Mr. Freeman.
“All the very basic questions that we had at that point were pretty much answered, ‘we don’t have that information’.”

When asked what information they gave about Mr Caseby’s risk of injury, he said: “We were told he denied any self-harm or suicidal tendencies.” There, staff described how the patient had presented with some signs of paranoia.

“He thought the staff might have tampered with his food,” Mr Freeman added. When police searched his room on the ward, they found notes including “snatches of tissue” with the words “pressured” and “overwhelmed.”

However, the official said that among those writings were “interspersed” notes on “fitness ideas” and “a business plan.” Mr Freeman also said he was never informed by Priory staff how Mr Caseby had previously been found by police on an Oxfordshire railway line and arrested for his own safety.

The officer only discovered this fact after reading a patient risk assessment form from Warneford Hospital, Oxford, in his police car. Mr Freeman said: “You immediately think what someone is doing on railway lines, adding that “alarm bells are ringing massively.

“Unfortunately, most of the time when people travel on railroad tracks, it’s because they’re thinking of doing something,” he added. The officer “updated the protocol” to alert fellow British transport police “immediately” to be on the alert for Mr Caseby.

Officers searched, contacted Mr Caseby’s family and traced likely places the former University of Birmingham student may have been, but were unable to locate him by the end of their early hours shift. The graduate’s father, Richard, 61, previously told the inquest that health officials have a basic legal duty to keep his son safe and secure.

The investigation continues.

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